When it comes to getting into college, every little thing helps.
College applicants often turn to enroll in their high school early to get that advantage. By demonstrating a preference for a particular college, studies have shown, an early application can give you an edge, which goes a long way in the hyper-competitive world of college admissions.
“The cohort of students who are applying and earning admission early has skyrocketed,” said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review and author of “The Best 388 Colleges.”
But for many of these students, applying early may be less about where they really want to go and more about where they think they have the best chance of getting in, according to Jeff Selingo, the author of “Who Gets in and Why: A Year Admissions. inside the college. “
“He turned it into a strategic game,” he said.
What to know about early action versus early decision
Whether it is a non-binding early action or an early decision, which is binding, the deadlines for these types of applications are typically November 1 or 15 for a December decision, or even earlier for admission to rotation.
“Many people see early action or early decision as interchangeable,” said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm. However, “early action, in some cases, makes no difference in admission”.
An advance decision, on the other hand, can “help exploit someone’s chances of admission.”
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For schools, giving students the option to apply early has clear advantages.
“It’s a significant win for college or university,” Franek said.
For starters, increasing the likelihood of a student saying yes improves college performance – or the percentage of students who choose to enroll after being admitted, which is an important statistic for schools.
Additionally, gaining a freshman class composition advantage helps admissions officers balance enrollment needs with requests for financial aid.
Plus, “most of those students are less concerned about their financial aid package,” Franek said. “These are paying customers.”
More schools, especially selective private colleges, now offer early application, and those institutions accept more students before the regular decision deadline, Franek said.
Of the schools on the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges list, 200 of the 388 have an early action or early decision option in early November. (Some schools also offer another option, called Early Decision II, scheduled for January.)
In those colleges, including Emory, Colgate, Swarthmore, Tulane, Middlebury, and Washington University in St. Louis, up to 50 percent or 60 percent of freshman class comes from the initial question pool, Franek said, although it might be even more than that.
At Pitzer College in Claremont, California, for example, 79% of the freshman class of 2020 was admitted early.
Key factors to consider before applying early
More often than not, it’s college-bound seniors with access to expert college counseling who are using early decision to increase their chances of getting in.
“This is difficult to reconcile because these are students who often get great advice and have the financial means,” Franek said. “Other students may not know about this channel or how to navigate it.”
But despite the potential to improve your chances of acceptance, there are other factors to consider as well, especially when it comes to financial aid.
With cost now the number 1 factor in choosing a college for many people, it is the early bird who benefits, as some financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served, or by order basis. programs with limited funds. The earlier families apply, the better their chances of being in line for that help, according to Rick Castellano, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae.
“If someone is applying an early decision or early action and gets in, there is more money available at that point on the calendar,” Greenberg said. “There is less and less money as you go along.”
However, committing to just one institution would forgo the ability to compare different packages from other schools, although some colleges may let you off the hook if your early acceptance offer doesn’t meet your needs. (Typically, a “better” offer includes more grants and scholarships and fewer loans.)
Applying early also means students have less time to work on their application, compare different types of colleges, visit campuses, and prepare for and take standardized tests.
“We highly recommend if a student intends to make the early decision to visit campus once or twice, even to do one night to get the full atmosphere,” Greenberg said.
However, students shouldn’t feel pressured if they haven’t focused on the best choice, he added. “Many students are not ready to make that commitment.”
Some high school students might benefit from spending more time choosing a school, Selingo also advised.
This is especially true “if they haven’t had the chance to visit college campuses” or if money is an issue and “comparing financial aid offers is really important.” So it might be best to apply a regular decision, she said.
“A student should wait if they need more time to think about the best solution,” Selingo said.
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