Roam any senior halls in area high schools and it is highly likely that you will see some stressed college seniors this week. The first round of early college applications is right around the corner – November first – and there are a few things to keep in mind for students applying under an early deadline.
First and most important is to have a very clear understanding of what it means to apply under an early deadline program. There are different restrictions depending on the type of deadline used by a college. Early Decision (ED) is a binding program where a student applies early and signs an agreement that if admitted they will attend that institution and withdraw all other applications. The only “out” for ED is if financial aid doesn’t work out for the student. Whitman College has two different ED dates that provide some flexibility on when to apply for a student who decides Whitman is their number one choice. Obviously students can apply Early Decision to only one college as they agree to matriculate there if admitted. Students applying ED need to have visited the college and know it is the one college they would love to attend above all others.
Early Action (EA) is a program that allows students to apply early and learn of their admission decision early but they still have until May first (Candidate Reply Date) to make a decision as to where to attend. EA programs are therefore considered non-binding. However not all early action programs are the same. Take for example Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action, which means you can apply early to Stanford and wait to make a choice about which college to attend, but the student is restricted from applying using any early deadline to other private universities. There are a few exceptions which they list on their website. In our area Gonzaga and Whitworth both have EA deadlines.
The student who is best suited for applying early is the student who has nothing left to prove. Their application is as complete and compelling now as it would be in January. So the student who wants to show that they are continuing an upward grade trend might not be the best candidate for an early deadline as their fall grades would not be considered in the application review. The student who wants to retake the SAT (and if the college doesn’t accept the November sitting) or the ACT in December to boost their scores may also be better off if they apply under the regular decision deadlines.
If you do apply early, know there are three outcomes to early applications; admit, roll-over to regular decision, or deny. One way or another, you will know the decision usually before or during the winter holiday break. Good luck!