For many high school seniors, the start of the school year signals a new and unfamiliar demand: the preparation and submission of applications to college. Although the on-line Common Application has streamlined the process of applying, the preparation of applications can be a time-consuming and anxiety-fraught process for high school students. It is for this reason that I work with most of my rising seniors to have their applications completed (or near-completion) before Labor Day.
One question which often arises is whether to apply to college under an early application plan. One such plan, Early Decision, is a binding agreement to attend the one college which has accepted you, usually by mid-December or early January. For students certain about where they wish to attend college, this option can provide a happy and early end to the uncertainty surrounding college attendance. Moreover, some colleges maintain that applying early increases the chances of admission. For example, Cornell, Northwestern, and Duke Universities, among others, are vocal about the fact that early applicants stand a better chance of acceptance.
The other early application plan, Early Action, is even more of a “win-win” for many students. Unlike Early Decision, an Early Action acceptance is not binding. That is, the student is still free to decide where to attend college up to the May 1 universal notification deadline, even though they are given notice of their acceptance months earlier than those students who apply under a Regular Decision plan. Learning that one has been accepted to at least a few colleges can be a most welcome holiday gift!
It is also a gift to college admissions professionals. Inundated with an avalanche of applications after the new year, admissions decision-makers relish receiving applications as early as possible. Moreover, applying early gives applicants an “edge” in that it demonstrates the initiative, organization, and proactive qualities which colleges are always seeking in their students.
It is also clear that many high school courses “rev up” in their demands as the school year continues. That being the case, early applications also relieve students of much of the application burden at the perfect time: When they need to focus more of their energies on their senior year coursework. Great grades first semester signal to colleges that students are up to the academic rigor awaiting them next year.
Early preparation for and taking of standardized tests (the SAT Reasoning Test and ACT) are, for most colleges, a critical part of the early application process. Excellent scores not only increase admissions chances: they are often the “gold standard” for being awarded merit-based financial aid at many colleges and universities. The experienced, rigorously trained tutors at Chariot Learning, with their focus on individualized student assessment and proven test-attack strategies, prepare students well for these important examinations, in my experience.
Many students will feel that they need more time to complete their college applications. The later deadlines of Regular Decision applications will allow this more comfortable pace. But for those whose applications are nearing completion by October, the extra advantages of early applications are worthy of consideration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Sandra Eller is an experienced College Admissions Consultant with a warm, engaging style. She works individually with students of all ability levels, throughout high school, to maximize admissions prospects at colleges that are a “best fit” for students academically, socially, emotionally and financially. Dr. Eller can be reached at LessStressCollege@gmail.com or (585) 427-0270. For more information, check out her website at www.LessStressCollege.com. © Copyright 2015 by Sandra J. Eller. All rights reserved.