Know the Difference Between Early Decision and Early Action When Applying for College
Here are the important factors to consider if you’re applying via Early Decision or Early Action.
As students and their families go through the college admissions process, they may find a particular school that seems to be the total package, combining fit, strength of programs, and financial aid, among many other factors. One of the ways outside of a student’s academic and extracurricular profile to stand out to a college is to express interest in the school by applying via Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA).
Early Decision is Binding
Applying to a school via Early Decision is binding, with the student agreeing to matriculate if accepted.
Early Action is Not Binding
Applying to a school via Early Action is not binding, with the student being able to apply for other colleges under regular decision if accepted early.
From the student’s perspective, there are obvious benefits to receiving your admissions decision early:
– Being accepted early takes a mental load off as the next big step in the student’s academic career is finalized
– More time to prepare for college (gain familiarity with the city by visiting, look for housing if not provided by the school, etc.)
– Ability to fully enjoy the last part of senior year
– If not accepted, time to reassess options and apply for other schools
On the other side of the coin lies the college’s perspective on Early Action/Early Decision. Colleges tend to admit a higher percentage of candidates who apply EA/ED relative to the regular pool, not by virtue of the students applying EA/ED, but because of these candidates’ stronger application profiles combined with the interest and demonstrated commitment to the school in the case of ED.
From the school’s perspective, there are a couple of things to remember about the EA/ED process when applying to colleges, which students can potentially take advantage of and avoid missteps if deferred to regular action:
– The first is the school’s reported yield, which represents the percentage of accepted students who enroll. A higher yield demonstrates a school’s “desirability” in that students want to attend if accepted, and the EA/ED process reflects this interest. If a student satisfies the academic and personality profile for the college and applied early decision, it makes sense for the college to accept since not only will the school benefit from a strong addition to the student body, the effect on the yield numbers will be positive. Again, if the student’s profile is strong enough that admission to a particular institution may not be too far out of reach, expressing interest in the school via applying EA and especially ED may increase the chances of admission.
– The second is what happens if a student does not get in via EA/ED and gets deferred to regular decision. At this point the line becomes very narrow between expressing interest in the right way and going overboard to the point where it’s a nuisance for the admissions officers. Here are two points to remember in this situation:
1. Schools have different policies on supplementary materials; some accept and review them carefully, some accept them but do not put much weight on them, and some don’t accept them at all. Make sure you read the school’s specific policy regarding these materials.
2. The supplementary materials should make the admissions officer take another hard look at the application. For example, winning a local/national competition senior year or getting a piece of work in an established publication in a particular field. It’s the quality of the supplementary materials that counts, not the quantity.
Applying to a school via Early Decision or Early Action clearly demonstrates the student’s interest in the school, and when applying it may help to think about looking at the ED/EA admissions process from the college’s point of view as well!
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