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.


Early program deadlines typically require you to apply in October or November and will notify you in December or January of acceptance. There are several types of early programs and it’s important you have a clear understanding of what options are available.


1.      Early Decision (ED) is considered a binding agreement between the student and college.  If admitted, you’re expected to withdraw all other college applications. You should really only consider this option if you have thoroughly engaged in researching colleges and have determined that, without a doubt, this is the very best fit.  Often times students can make this decision if the financial aid piece is not a significant factor in their final decision since final aid packages are often unavailable until spring, long after the ED commitment is made.  ED provides an opportunity for students to have the college decision process completed early, but you should consider carefully because of its restrictive nature.


2.      Early Action or Early Notification (EA) is a non-binding decision plan.  Students apply by an early fall deadline and the school promises a decision usually by the end of the calendar year.  With this plan, you are able to have an early sense of whether they will be admitted, but still have until the May 1 national reply date to make a final decision.  This allows you more flexibility in reviewing acceptance and financial aid offers from multiple colleges.


3.      There are also schools that use a Rolling Admission model.  Students can receive an admission decision as soon as the application is completed.  So if you apply early, you’ll know early.


Remember that every school is different and the key is to contact the school directly to understand its particular rules surrounding early application. 


Ingrid Hayes is Vice President for Enrollment Management at Spelman College. In her role, she provides strategic leadership for enrollment initiatives from student recruitment and matriculation to graduation. Ingrid has more than 20 years of undergraduate admissions and enrollment management experience. Throughout her career, she has consistently enhanced the quality of applicants, increased enrollment and improved admissions processes. She is active in the National and Southern Associations for College Admission Counseling, serving two terms as an executive board member of the regional association and has served as a member of the National College Fair Committee. 

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