What are the benefits to applying early?

by Hannah Johnson

Most colleges and universities have a deadline to apply to their school. Some of them even have multiple deadlines for different types of admissions. What this means is, if you have everything together and ready to apply by a November deadline, chances are you are applying early action or early decision.  Almost 450 colleges and universities across the nation have early action and early decision programs.

What is the difference between applying early and action?

When you apply early action, you’re simply expressing your interest in the schools that you apply early to. This is a non-binding alternative to applying early decision. Early action gives you the upper hand and allows you to avoid competing for a spot during the regular applicant pool. With this option you can apply to other colleges unlike with early decision.

The main reason students don’t apply early is because their GPA isn’t where they would like it to be, their SAT or ACT scores are less than ideal, or are missing a few key components of what the college is looking for.

What about early decision?

Early decision is a whole different ballgame. When you
apply early decision, this option is binding. It means that if you are accepted to that school, you are obligated to go there. If you have any questions regarding your school’s deadlines, don’t be afraid to call and ask.

While applying early decision is binding to that school, you most likely will have your decision back before regular admission closes at other schools. This means that you can apply to other schools before the regular deadline closes if you don’t get into your early decision school.

Some colleges also have an option that is called “single-choice early action (SCEA).” This is a restrictive nonbinding early action option. This allows you to apply to that one school, but you aren’t allowed to apply early to any other school until you receive a decision from the school which you applied SCEA. You are however still allowed to apply early action to any public or state university.

There are pros and cons to both applying early action and early decision.

What are the pros?

When you apply early you get to show and express your interest in those schools. This may also increase your chance of getting into that school because you have less competition than you would if you applied during regular admission.

Applying early can also cause less stress and decrease anxiety. This is mainly because you will receive your admission decision in December rather than March. You have more time to make a decision that best suits you and you have more time to compare financial aid packages from the schools you’re accepted to.

The most important part of applying early is better admission rates. When you apply early, you enter yourself into a smaller applicant pool which has higher admission rates than regular admission. This can be helpful if you have your eyes set on a dream school.

A pro to applying early decision is if you have your eyes set on only one school, you don’t need to worry about anything else.

What are the Cons?

When you apply early, you have less time to work on your application. If you are ahead of the game, then this won’t be a problem for you.

A big downfall to applying early decision is the fact that you will not have a chance to compare any financial aid packages from that school or any others. If you are accepted, it is set in stone that you will attend that school no matter what they give you for financial aid.

How do you apply early?

If you are interested in applying early, you should complete all standardize testing no later than October. Most students that apply early begin working on their applications during the summer before their senior year. It is important to understand the different options of applying early. Please remember that applying early decision does mean that if you are accepted, you are obligated to attend that college. You should follow your specific college deadlines and instructions on how to apply early because not all colleges and universities are the same.

Overall, what is best for me?

Only you can decide what is best for you. Applying early action is very good for someone who would like to apply to multiple schools and is ready and prepared to do so. Applying early decision is very good for someone who has their sights set on one school and are prepared as well. It is important to understand that while having your dream school in mind, it is always a smart idea to have back up plans.

Take your time to research and find the school that is the best fit for you.

In the end, being happy where you are, doing what you like to do, is all that will matter and is how you will be most successful.