Early Admission

It's Decision Time for Early Applicants

We're pleased today to host Ingrid Hayes, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, to talk about applying early! Read on for Hayes' advice about what students should consider in applying early and her thoughts about whether or not applying early creates an advantage for students.


Attention seniors:  Early admission deadlines are fast-approaching, and it’s time for you to make one of the first major decisions in the admissions process.


Applying early is a great option if you’re sure about which college you want to attend, but it’s critical for you to do your due diligence in researching colleges and visiting campuses before deciding to apply early. 


Does applying early increase my chances of getting accepted?


In my 20 years of experience in admissions, I’ve noticed a lot of students assume an early plan will give them an advantage, especially if they feel that they’re closer to the lower end of the competitive profile for a school. Many national statistics show higher early acceptance rates and that may pique your interest to apply early. The question of “does applying early increase my chances of getting accepted?” is one that I get often, and the answer is yes and no depending on the school. Students should ask the school directly what might be the benefits of applying early.


Did Early Decision Fill Most of the Seats for the Class of 2017? Do the math...

This time of year brings a slew of headlines trumpeting the arrival of decisions for those who applied under early action or early decision plans. But if you're a student who opted to take advantage of the additional time afforded by applying regular decision instead of applying under an early plan, you may feel you have cause to worry.

Among the stories about the record numbers of early applicants, here's one of the media's favorite memes every year: “The college you’re applying to has filled half its freshman class with early decision applicants!”

If you've read headlines like this and worried there won’t be enough room left if you are applying under regular decision, throw that thought in the circular file underneath your desk along with other forms of media madness.

This is a case where the numbers can be deceiving.

The question is not how many seats are being taken up in the class by applicants who applied under early decision. The question is, what percentage of the school’s total admission offers is already gone? It sounds incredible, but it’s true that even when half the seats are filled with ED applicants, fewer than half the acceptances have been given out.

Seniors: You don't have to jump on the early bandwagon

In October of senior year, it may seem like everyone is jumping on the early admission bandwagon. Students report a lot of pressure to apply early. It comes from peers, parents, newspaper headlines— and sometimes it comes from oneself. But there is nothing wrong with sitting out this round and opting for more time and the greater choice it allows. There are distinct advantages to waiting and applying regular decision. Before you jump on the early bandwagon, seriously consider whether it's right for you.  That depends on a number of factors. Most important are the plans offered at the colleges on your list, especially the ones that have emerged as your top choices. Other factors that you must consider include your own goals, your grades and test scores, and your family’s need for financial aid.


For more information about early programs, including a list of questions to help you figure out whether an early program is right for you, see Chapter 15, "Decision Plans," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Next steps: An Early Acceptance

Every day this week, we'll be posting a series of "Next Steps" for students who have applied early and are receiving their notifications. First up, next steps for students who have been admitted -- Congratulations! -- under early decision (ED), early action (EA), or restrictive early action (REA). But first let us say that we're so happy you will have one more thing to celebrate over the holiday break! And when you catch your breath, here are some steps to address... Early Action and Restrictive Early Action EA and REA programs are nonbinding and students have until May 1 to inform the college whether they will enroll.

  • If the EA or REA school where you have been admitted is your first choice, you may want to inform them of your intention to attend and withdraw any applications to the other schools on your list. (We'll have more to say about this later in the week.)
  • If you are not sure you will attend the EA or REA school or your family will want to review and compare multiple financial aid awards, complete the applications to the other schools on your list.  (See the note on financial aid at the end of this post.)

Early Decision ED programs are binding and students must enroll if accepted.