Deciding if you will apply early and where is a difficult part of the college application process. But if you have a top choice school that far outshines the others, applying early can be a great choice.
First of all, let’s go over the different kinds of early application.
Early decision applicants apply by November and hear back from the school in December. Application is binding, which means if you get in, you have to go. Once you receive an acceptance letter, you must withdraw all other applications you have submitted. Therefore, you may only apply early decision to one school.
Early decision application may be best for you if you are absolutely positive that you would go to your top choice school if you got in.
Early action applicants apply before regular decision applicants and usually hear back in January or February. The main difference between early decision and early action is that early action is not binding. There is no commitment to go if you get in.
Note: Keep in mind that not all schools will offer early decision and early action options. Some will offer one or the other and some might only offer regular decision. Make sure to do your research.
Pros of applying early
1. Demonstrated interest
By applying early, you show the college that it is your top choice. This will work in your favor when the admissions committee is making their decisions.
2. Higher acceptance rate?
Some believe it’s easier to get in when you apply early because you are being compared to a much smaller pool of applicants. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd.
Many schools will state that their early acceptance rate is substantially higher than their regular acceptance rate. But many argue that this is just because early applicants tend to be more qualified and put more effort into their applications.
3. Finding out earlier is less stressful
If you get in early, you basically get to relax until college starts (but try not to let senioritis take over too badly). While everyone is freaking out when they begin receiving acceptance letters in March, you are stress-free.
If you don’t get in, at least you have one less thing to worry about. One school is completely done and out of the picture.
Cons of applying early
1. An earlier deadline is stressful
Because you’re applying early, you clearly don’t have as much time to work on your application. With homework and other responsibilities piling up, you might feel tempted to wait for the regular deadline.
But I believe the early deadline can actually be kind of nice. It forces you to get an application out of the way, so you’ll have less work to do later.
If you apply early decision, the commitment can be scary. What if you change your mind about the school? How can you be absolutely sure it’s your first choice?
Although a binding application can seem like a bad thing, it’s actually helpful later on. If you get in, you won’t have to make any hard choices between schools. You’ll get to stop thinking about it. You’ll be done with the whole process and know where you’re going.
3. Hard decisions
The whole concept of applying early stressed many of my friends out. They felt like they had to apply early somewhere but they couldn’t decide where. They liked many schools but they couldn’t pick out their favorite. Making the decision between schools adds another element of stress to the college application process.
4. No comparison of financial aid offers
If you apply early decision, you have to go to that school and take the financial aid that they give you. You can’t compare a large group of schools and all of their different offers.
For some, this lack of options can be a deal breaker that means they decide not to apply early decision.