early decision college application

The Truth about Early Decision and Early Action

You’ve decided you’re ready to apply for college, and you ask yourself, “Why wait?” Some colleges let you apply as early as November 1st. You figure that your application is as good as it’s going to get, so you want to get your application in before everyone else. Couldn’t hurt, right? Unfortunately, it can. Early decision/action aren’t the same as regular applications. While early decision and early action are great ideas for some students, these options come with downsides that can’t be ignored.

Early decision and early action have some conditions. Firstly, you have even less time than normal to get your application in shape, which can be detrimental to even the best applications.

November 1st is mind-bogglingly fast! On November 1st, you’ve just started senior year. You’ve barely been in school for two months, and unless you got a head start on your application process in junior year, only having two months to complete your application may be unrealistic.

If you’re scrambling to complete exams and write essays, early decision or early action may do more harm than good.

Early decision specifically means you’re required to attend that school if they accept you. This may not seem like a downside, especially if you’re applying to your first-choice school, but this condition will decrease the amount of time you have to commit to a school, and may force you into a school with unknown financial aid options.

If you’re applying with early decision or early action, expect colleges to also require your financial aid information at the same time as the rest of your application. For many schools, you need your entire application in order by that early November 1st deadline. Good luck!

This binding condition doesn’t apply to early action; you don’t have to attend if you don’t want to. Make sure you know which one you’re doing: early decision and early action are not the same. Early action will keep your options open, and options are never a bad thing!

Early decision and early action also makes it less feasible to apply to many different schools. While students should be applying to 10-12 colleges, early decision and early action force you to focus on 2-3 colleges. That’s not many options. You may find that after all of this extra effort to meet the earlier deadline, your 2-3 schools have rejected you, and it was all for nothing.

Despite all of this, early decision and early action have advantages. If you’re 100% certain you want to attend a school, applying early shows a lot of interest in that school. It’s hard to express interest in a school during the application process, but early decision and early action shows you’re willing to give up all backup options for the sake of one school. That expresses a lot of interest!

Students who apply early also get early answers. You’ll likely get your answer from a school around New Year’s if you apply by November 1st. That gives you more time to plan your move to a new city/state if needed, and a load off of your shoulders for the rest of the school year.

Certain schools openly admit that early applicants are in a smaller pool than normal applicants. This means that you’re much less likely to get waitlisted, and sometimes more likely to get admitted if you were unsure about your application.

With these advantages, early decision and early action may seem very appealing. However, some schools also say that there is no advantage to early applications. While some schools favor early decision and early action, others weigh all applications equally. Before you take a risk with early decision or early action, make sure it will matter at your school of choice!

It’s very difficult to know if early decision or early action give any real advantage. The data on both of these is skewed; most students who apply early are go-getters who are more productive than the average student. While early decision or early action might be a good choice for you, it might also have no effect at all.

Early decision and early action have their advantages and disadvantages. A lot of the time, the disadvantages will outweigh the advantages, but it still may be the right choice for your college career. Do your research and make the right decision based on your needs.


Author: Hastings Davin



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