Applying to college can be a lot like dating. Some people like to play the field, while others prefer to settle down with “the one”.
That’s why some kids want to have as many admissions as possible to consider, and others hope to commit to their dream college right away, so they can stop agonizing about it and enjoy senior year.
Here are some questions we get from parents who are trying to decide if Early Decision or Early Action are right for them.
What are the advantages of applying early?
Getting word your fave college has accepted you removes a ton of stress from senior year. No more fretting over your application essay, reading the avalanche of wooing emails colleges send or waiting by the mailbox for the coveted fat envelope. It doesn’t give you license to slack off on your course load, but it can allow you to take a more challenging AP course than you might have before, when you were overly focused on your GPA.
But the main reason you may want to consider applying early is that schools admit a much higher percentage of the early applicants than they do during the normal admissions process. Statistics show that the most selective colleges currently admit 25% or more of their total students during the early admissions process.
What is the difference between Early Decision and Early Action?
Early Decision is binding which means that you are committing to go there if you are accepted. It’s a big deal. Most colleges respect other schools’ binding clause so you could be out of luck to go to another school if you renege on your Early Decision acceptance.
Early Action means that you are applying to the school early and can enjoy the benefits of early acceptance (hopefully!) without the pressure of being forced to make a choice. The exception is schools that have “Single Choice Early Action” programs. These allow you to apply solely to their school under Early Action, though you may apply elsewhere during the regular admissions season.
How early is early?
Early means now. Most schools have their deadline in November, so make sure you confirm deadlines. It could mean you spend Halloween finalizing applications, but the treat of knowing you were accepted when early admissions are announced in mid-December will be the best holiday present you could imagine.
Are there any drawbacks?
Besides the binding nature of Early Decision, think hard about whether you are a stellar candidate for early admission. It usually attracts very competitive candidates. If you want to pull up a grade or retake the SAT, it might be wise to hold off for the spring.
How does Early Decision or Early Action affect financial aid?
Early Decision can affect financial aid because it doesn’t allow you to compare packages among schools. Sometimes during the regular admission process, a school can be persuaded to offer more if you show them a sweet package from a competitor, but with Early Decision you have no comparisons.
Early Action can be the better option because it allows you to look at all the packages you’re offered unless of course you only apply to one school.
There is one way to unbind yourself from Early Decision and that’s to claim financial hardship, if the financial aid package is truly inadequate. But that can be hard to prove and you still wouldn’t have additional packages for comparison.
The early twins are great for students who know exactly what they want, including being done with the whole process. Is that you? Then get to work on that application!