How to Make Early Admissions Work For You
Early admissions have become a common trend as high school seniors consider where they might want to spend their college years. If you can get your applications completed before Thanksgiving, chances are that you will receive at least one acceptance before Christmas.
Colleges offer one or more approaches to early admissions:
- Early Action means exactly what it says: apply early, and you will get a decision early. However, you are not obligated to deposit at that college.
- Restrictive Early Action also means that if you apply early, you will get a decision early. But you must agree to apply Early Action to only that one school.
- Early Decision also means exactly what it says: apply early, and you will get a decision early–and you are obligated to deposit at that college. Some colleges offer two Early Decision periods, one in November, the other in early January. If you were denied at your first-choice Early Decision school, you have an opportunity to apply Early Decision to a second one.
- Rolling Admissions means that a college will be making decisions several times during the admissions cycle. Apply early, and you may get a decision within four to six weeks after the college has all of the necessary information. The difference between Rolling Admissions versus Early Action or Early Decision is that the college is not obligated to decide on your application quickly. The admissions office could send out offers to better-qualified candidates and leave your application on hold until after other accepted students have decided where they will enroll.
Colleges also offer the opportunity to pass on early admissions and apply Regular Decision, and you can do that after the winter break. But you will need to wait until the college has decided on all of the students who opted for early admissions before they get to you.
After you make your college list, you will likely take advantage of at least one of these options when you apply to each school. Its wise to take advantage of more than one. Suppose you live in New Jersey and you’re sold on The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), an excellent mid-sized school, as your first choice. Its public, affordable to your family, offers many of the same options that you might find at Villanova, and you know that Villanova is a financial reach. You could apply Early Decision to TCNJ and have an answer before the year is out.
You can also hedge your bets if you’re not sure that TCNJ will say yes. Rutgers uses Early Action, and offers the opportunity to apply to up to three colleges on the same application. Apply by November 1, and you should have a decision before Christmas. Temple offers the same opportunity. If TCNJ says yes, your work is done before the year is out, and you deposit at TCNJ.
Suppose TCNJ says no, but Rutgers and Temple say yes. You can commit to one of these two schools, or apply to another one. If you do, you can apply Early Decision 2 to one more school, and either Rolling Admissions or Regular Decision to as many more as you want. But be careful: whenever a public university uses Early Action and Regular Decision, the number of available seats in a freshman class might be smaller than you think. The University of Maryland-College Park, as one example, get 85 percent of its freshman classes from the students who applied Early Action. Towson University, another Maryland public college, gets most of its freshmen this way, too.
Some might say that early admission places unfair pressures on a high school senior to make a college list too early in the admissions cycle, that s/he will not have enough time to write the best possible essays for admissions or show improvements in their academic performance. In some cases its true: a well written application to an exceptionally selective college takes time to get right, and the brightest students want to apply to more than one.
The admissions office takes a different perspective: the most motivated students will craft a well written, well organized application, and get it in early, if they are seriously interested in the school. No college admissions office, even one at a very large school such as Maryland or Rutgers, wants to feel like an afterthought for students who are likely to go elsewhere. They want to get as many students who know that their school is their first choice to commit as early as possible.
If you have already made your list, make sure that you have visited every school, and that you have the information that you need to feel confident that at least two or three will respond favorably to your application. Apply to those schools Early Action or Rolling Admission, if you have the opportunity. Unless you have your sights on an Early Decision school that might be a reach, make sure that your bases are covered with some good choices before Christmas.
Need a “last minute” review of a college list? Want to consider adding some schools? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 609-406-0062.