Applying early to college gives students the benefits of having an admission answer to at least one school before other applications are due and being compared to a smaller pool of applicants during the admissions process. This decision isn’t for everyone, but a certain kind of student should seriously consider an early application.
The Ways to Apply Early
When you apply early to college, you have a few options to choose from.
- Early Decision: An Early Decision application has a deadline well before the regular admission deadline. If you apply to a school in this way, you will agree in a binding contract to attend that school if you are admitted under Early Decision. You might see ED I and ED II; these indicate two deadlines, one in November and one in December, for the same school. Even if you go with the later deadline, you are still bound to go if the school accepts you early.
- Early Action: This is also an early application, usually due in November or early December. The big difference is that you don’t have to attend the school if you get accepted early. You can wait to make your decision until you hear back from other schools.
- Single-Choice Early Action: Single-Choice is the same as Early Action, except you may only apply to one school early. If none of your EA applications are Single-Choice, you may submit applications to several schools.
The Benefits of Early Admission
One significant benefit of applying early is knowing whether or not you got admitted to one of the top colleges of your choice. In most cases, you’ll have your answer from your top school before your other applications are due. You can save money on fees by applying to fewer schools and eliminating your safety schools. You can also go through the process with a sense of calm, knowing you already achieved one acceptance.
Another significant benefit is the odds. Especially for highly selective schools, EA and ED applications have a higher acceptance rate than the traditional application pool does. Fewer students apply during these rounds, so students should choose a school that they have a significant shot at.
Early Action or Early Decision allows you to showcase a stellar high school career and to demonstrate significant interest in a school. Filling out and sending in an early application shows the admissions department that you’re likely to attend if admitted. Believe it or not, showing interest can help you get in.
How to Make the Most of Early Application
Research colleges thoroughly, starting in your junior year. Make most of your college visits during junior year or the summer between junior and senior year. Only apply Early Decision if you are sure that school is your top choice. Otherwise, choose Early Action.
If you aren’t finished researching colleges, or you need as much time as possible to bring up your grades and get involved at school, skip applying early. But for students with a good academic record and their eyes set on a certain school, early applications are a great idea.