If you don’t know what Early Admission is, or if you just need a refresher, a general rundown is available here.
College applications are stressful, but they don’t have have to be. Enter Early Admissions. While Early Admissions require a bit more planning and forward thinking, applying early can make the college admissions process (and senior year as a whole) much more streamlined and far easier for students worried about college.
Why Apply Early?
While the acceptance rate of Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) students is significantly higher for nearly every school, it’s hard to find a trend that proves that you’re more likely to get into a school if you apply early. Typically, students who apply ED/EA have better grades, test scores, recommendations, and counseling, so the group tends to be a little more self-selective. Applying ED/EA will not make your GPA or test scores higher, and if you didn’t have a good chance of getting accepted to a school without ED/EA, you probably won’t get in with it either. You can benefit from Early Decision to schools that consider demonstrated interest, as a binding application clearly shows your desire to attend a certain school. The benefit is usually quite small.
The real power of Early Action/Early Decision is how it affects the admissions process. The earlier deadline (usually November 1) incentivizes students to write their essays, get their recommendations, and generally plan for the admissions process much earlier, making the entire process easier.
Getting your essays done during the summer before senior year (or during the first few weeks of class, which is when school tends to be easiest) lets you actually have a break during Thanksgiving and Christmas (which is typically when regular admission students write their college essays) and actually take the time you need to write a polished essay without having to worry about homework or class every day. You won’t have to scramble to obtain a formulaic, rushed recommendation letter from teachers with fifty different letters to write if you just ask for your letters near the end of junior year instead, when your teachers can take the time to write polished, personalized recommendations after spending a full year with you in class. Your counselor will be far more available to look at your application in September/October than in December, when every regular admission applicant is panicking about sending in their application on time.
“But Cody,” you ask, “these are all just benefits to doing your application early! Can’t you just work on your application early and apply regular admission?”
The answer is yes, but very few high school students have the willpower to complete their application so thoroughly without a deadline on the horizon (or without very involved parents breathing down their necks). When was the last time you completed a homework assignment, paper, or project three or four months in advance? College applications aren’t exactly fun to complete, so you probably won’t be motivated enough to work on them when you could be hanging out with friends or playing video games during the August and September months. Essentially, EA and ED force you to complete your application in advance without the ability for you to slack off, as students inevitably will when given the chance.
This holds especially true for procrastinators like me. If you’re someone who always waits until the last minute, it’s better to stay up late writing terrible essays during October than during December in midterm season. Also, if your essays are always shoddily-written pieces of garbage because you write them after chugging espresso shots at 3 AM on school nights, it’s good to know that you can try again after being deferred if you apply ED/EA.
Another big benefit to applying ED/EA is that you generally have to complete fewer applications. If you’re accepted to your ED or first-choice EA school, you’re done. You don’t have to complete any more applications, and your senior year just got a lot easier. Even if you were rejected by your first-choice school, you’d still be done if you were accepted by your second- or third-choice school early action. (I only had to apply to two schools because of Early Decision, which made my workload much lighter senior year).
Even if you got deferred or rejected to all of your ED/EA schools, your workload will still be far lighter. You already have your transcript, recommendations, test scores, and Common/Coalition Application essays ready and waiting, so all you have to do now is write a couple more supplemental essays. You won’t have to miss any Christmas parties or stay up late writing essays because you’re already almost done.
Being deferred to your top-choice school could also help you stay motivated during your senior year and lessen the symptoms of senioritis. If you already know that you didn’t quite make the cut, you’ll be more inclined to get those grades and test scores up before your second chance passes during the regular admission deadline. Even if you still get rejected by your first choice in regular admissions, that grade bump may be the difference that gets you into your second-choice school.
What about the Downsides to Applying Early?
Of course, when you apply Early Admission, you actually have to get your application done early. This means that you’ll probably have to take your standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and SAT subject tests) earlier, most likely junior year, because you’ll only have a couple of chances during senior year. You’ll have to think about your recommendation letters earlier too, because you’ll probably need letters from your junior-year teachers rather than your senior ones. However, these are easy steps to take with very minimal planning required (and the fact that you’re reading this right now implies that you’re probably already planning).
Now go forth, and conquer the college application process!