Posted on Sep 17th 2018
Senior year brings the start of the college admission process, and getting started can be a daunting task for students. It weighs heavily on your mind throughout Senior year. But if you already have a college you're looking to apply to, there's another option available to you: early application. Brought to you by our college planning services experts.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
Though both early decision and early action mean that you send in your application early to the college(s) of your choice, there's a clear difference between the two. ED applications are binding, meaning that you apply to one college-often sometime in November-and if they accept you it is considered a binding legal contract. Once you accept, you must attend that college. An EA application, on the other hand, means that you can apply to multiple colleges and are not legally bound to attend one if they send you an acceptance letter. You can have plenty of time to weigh your options and make your decision of where you want to go.
Applying ED is best for students who know exactly what college they want to attend, and already have strong grades and test scores from their previous years of school as their Senior year will not be taken into consideration. You should also only consider this if you know that you will absolutely be able to qualify for financial aid/don't need financial aid and know that you will be able to afford tuition. But applying ED shows the college that you have a strong dedication to it and that if you are accepted you will definitely attend, which makes you an appealing candidate in their eyes. And you will be guaranteed a spot there if accepted, which can relieve some stress going into your Senior year.
When you apply EA, you can apply to multiple colleges of your choosing, and you don't have to commit to the first institution to accept your application. It has a lot more freedom than ED, so if you don't know exactly what college will be the best for you, you'll have time to make your decision. You could say yes right away, or wait to commit until springtime. The obvious advantage over applying ED is that EA allows you time to compare financial aid packages between the schools you apply to.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying Early
Applying early has its highs and lows. For a student going into their senior year who has a good idea of the college(s) they wish to attend, applying early could give them an increased chance of getting accepted. Getting accepted early can also mean there is more time to look for housing, decide on financial payment, and otherwise get a head start on preparing for college. But it can also have its downsides. Applying early adds a lot of extra stress to decide on a college too soon, pressuring a student to make an important decision before they've explored all their options, or send in an application that won't properly represent them as a student based on their previous years of schooling.
How Do You Know If It's Right for You?
If you've put a lot of effort in researching your top programs and colleges and already know what institute you want to attend, applying early (whether ED or EA) is definitely a path you may want to consider. It could put you ahead of the crowd and up your chances of being admitted. But if you're unsure of where you should apply and want to keep comparing, or your transcript could benefit from another year of high school grades and extracurricular activities to show colleges, you may want to think twice before applying early.
While it's definitely tempting to get the whole process over with and apply early, it's important that you weigh your options to decide if early application is truly right for you. You don't want to hurt your chances at admission if you're not really ready to apply yet. Listen to your counselor's advice to tell if it's right for you. Early application is not for everyone, and that's ok!