Deciding whether to apply early is a big fork in the road to college. As tempting as it may seem, it is not a decision to be made lightly.
Some of your friends may be cheering the fact that their application stress will be over before the holidays. Should you join them?
Applying Early Is Perfect for Some—and a Bad Move for Others
If you are thinking of applying early—either early decision or early action—ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I happy with my grades and test scores? If not, you will be better off using fall semester to improve them and applying during the regular admissions cycle.
- Do I know what I want in a college based on extensive campus visits and research? If not, you may end up at a college you won't like. Skip applying early and dedicate time to finding out what you really want in a college.
- Do I need substantial financial aid? If so, you are better off skipping an early decision application so you can compare and negotiate aid offers from multiple colleges.
More Food for Thought
Does applying early boost your chances? Applying early, especially for an early decision, shows the college you are interested. However, many highly qualified and recruited students apply early, so the odds are just about as competitive as for regular admissions.
Early rejections can lead to hastily completed regular applications. You might be tempted to delay work on regular admission applications until you've heard from your "early" colleges. But if you do, you'll scramble to meet admission deadlines, and risk submitting less-than-stellar applications.
Resist the urge to "just get it over with." No doubt about it, an early acceptance can relieve some of your application stress. But there's a big payoff to taking time to put together a well-researched list of colleges and weathering the stress of applying to each one. Your reward is ending up at a college where you know you will thrive.
An early application might lead to a deferral. One outcome of applying early is being "deferred" to the regular application pool. The college is not saying "no," but it is looking for more reasons to say "yes." If this happens, your best strategy is to work hard to earn top grades throughout your senior year and show your interest to the admissions office.
- Find out more about the two types of early admission by taking a look at Is Early Decision Right for You? and When Applying Early Action Makes Sense.
- It's important to know your chances of admission before you apply early. Estimate your early admission chances at any college with the College Chances Calculator.
- Find out the early admission deadlines and policies of the colleges on your list. Look up their College Profiles with College Match.