Seniors: Questions you Should Be Asking if You're Thinking of Applying Early

If you are thinking of applying under an early action or early decision plan, we have some questions for you to consider as you decide what might be right for you. The more yes answers you can give, the more applying early might be your best approach.

If you’re considering early decision, start here and work your way through all the questions below:

• Of all the colleges on your list, is this the school where you would unquestionably enroll?

• Is your first-choice school an environment that fits you well, but also a place where you can change and grow?

• Have you felt the school where you are going to apply early decision is your first choice for more than a few days or weeks?

• Do you and your parents agree that if you are given a reasonable financial aid package, you will attend the school even if other colleges were to offer you stronger financial aid packages or a merit scholarship?

If you’re considering early action or restrictive early action, start here:

• Do your junior-year grades and classes support an early application, relative to the philosophyn and practice of the college to which you’re applying?

• Have you completed all standardized testing by October of your senior year?

• Considering your commitments to extracurricular activities or work, will you be able to complete your application by November?

• Are you a student with a special talent, such as an athlete, or a special circumstance, such as a legacy applicant?


For more information about rolling admission, restrictive early action, and why colleges offer different decision plans , see Chapter 15, "Decision Plans," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.


My advice is to leave your options open, with everything from deciding which college to attend to accepting financial aid packages, on the table.

Early Decision, where students, should they be accepted, foreclose any choice, and is typically the death knell for meaningful financial aid, is like purchasing a horse to hitch to your wagon, and two months later, Ford rolls its first car off the assembly line. You are married to that school come December or January, when you might have found that more appropriate collegiate partner come May 1. Unless you are absolutely, positively certain that your Early Decision school is the one and only (and you, your parents, your guidance counselor and your pet hamster are willing to commit), in a word, DON'T!

As for Early Action, assuming your application is complete and good to go in every respect (don't rush it simply to make deadline), go for it! Getting your foot in the door before 70% of the applications roll in, and showing admissions that you're not one to dilly dally, can only (and usually does) help.

With respect to Restricted Early Action (where you can only apply to THAT college early, to the exclusion of other schools with Early Action plans), in general, no. That college may consider itself special. Good for them. Why preclude the opportunity to apply elsewhere, perhaps to every school on your list that so permits, early in the game?

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