Most colleges these days have an early application program, with the idea being that a student applies earlier than the “regular” deadline and gets notified of the decision earlier as well. Usually, the “early” deadline is sometime before November 1, as opposed to late December or early January for “regular”, and the “early” notification date is months before the “regular” April 15 notification date.
Note well: Some “early” programs specify that the applicant may not apply simultaneously in an “early” format to any other college, and some also require a BINDING commitment from the applicant to attend if accepted. Students should be sure to check with each individual college for all the exact details before applying.
Aside from the differences in deadlines and notifications, and the binding commitment for certain programs, the application process for an “early” program is virtually the same as in a “regular decision” program.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of applying “early”? Here is a quick view:
- You will find out as early as December if you are accepted or not. This contrasts to the usual notification date for “regular” decisions, April 15. If you are accepted, you will not have the added nail-biting months of not knowing. If you are not accepted, you are disappointed, but at least you know early and you may adjust the remainder of your applications accordingly.
- You will compete with a smaller pool of candidates.
- The “admit rate” usually is slightly higher for early admission programs. In other words, a higher percentage of applicants will be admitted in the “early” program, as opposed to the “regular” program. (But, does this mean your chances are better to get admitted? It depends. See below.)
- If there is a binding agreement to attend if accepted, you should be absolutely confident –before you apply – that this particular college is your first choice. If you cannot be certain that this is your number one choice, you might be wise to avoid applying early. (Of course, if it is not a binding commitment, you have much more flexibility here.)
- You will need to get your act together sooner. Most “early” programs have a deadline somewhere between August and November. (Check with the college that interests you to be certain.) That means you will have to write the essays, get the recommendations, fill out the paperwork, and provide all other requirements months before you would have to do it otherwise.
- Though the applicant pool generally will be smaller for “early” programs, and you will be competing against fewer candidates, and the “admit rate” is higher, your particular chances to get admitted are not necessarily better. In fact, they may be worse. Early programs usually attract a high percentage of very strong candidates. So, though there are fewer competing applicants, they probably will be loaded with higher than average credentials – test scores, GPA, “legacy” status, rank, recs, essays, activities, etc. With that said, admission at most selective colleges is quite unpredictable. There is no way to be certain who will be admitted and who will not. Your chances will depend on the standards, needs, and wants of the college and how those standards, needs, and wants match up with who you are, how you present yourself to the committee, and what credentials you bring.
Before deciding to apply early, candidates should evaluate their own applications. How are your grades and test scores? Will you be presenting a compelling essay and strong recs? Are you a “legacy”, that is, did your father or siblings or other relatives graduate from the college? Is there anything conspicuously noteworthy about you – are you a world-class athlete, a published author, a successful entrepreneur, etc.? Note well – superstar status is NOT required for early application, and will not guarantee admission, but, of course, the stronger your profile, the better your chances. Should you feel that your credentials are particularly strong or weak in these or other areas, it might help make your decision clearer.
At the very least, consideration of an early application will launch you into the overall process of applying to college, and motivate you to begin pulling together the required self-evaluation, research, materials, testing, and recommendations.
For a more complete look at the college admission process, see COLLEGE ADMISSION: A Simple, No-Nonsense Guide To Getting Into The College Of Your Choice. CLICK HERE