Imagine getting ready to apply to your college list. You have been mailed the paper applications and you sit down to fill in each segment by hand. You had originally had 10 colleges on your list but after realizing how long it would take to fill out each application you quickly narrow down your list to the schools you really wanted to apply to, this ends up being four of your top choices.
After an entire evening devoted to this endeavor you are finally done. You stretch out your hands to ease the kinks and collapse into bed. Tomorrow you’ll have to put all of the applications in the mailbox.
Sounds exhausting, doesn't it?
Of course that is nothing like what the college application process looks like for students today in large part because of the Common Application.
Simply fill out one form, and apply to all of the colleges on your list in minutes. Nothing could be simpler.
However, there are some downsides to the Common App. For one, it encourages students to "over-apply" to schools just because they can. Instead of taking a good long look at your list and narrowing it down to schools that are really a good fit, you just click the button and send an application to all of them leaving you to sort it out later.
This is a downside for colleges as well, for even though they are getting more applicants than ever before, they have no way of knowing which applicant is actually a serious candidate. Many schools are facing the problem of overwhelming numbers of applicants, but few of those accepted who actually enroll.
School have lost an important signal: A signal that tells them if a student is actually seriously interested in their school. When colleges feel more sure about a student, they are much more likely to accept that student and more likely to offer them a fair financial aid package.
Enter early decision and early action options as a solution to this problem.
If you take the time to apply early to a school, whether it's through early decision, early action or through rolling admission, you are sending a strong signal that you are a serious candidate. You are more likely to commit to the school, thus you will be more likely to be accepted.
Admissions officers love seeing this! It can provide an instant lift to your application, even if you don't have the same qualifications as students who apply later on.
If you have your sights set on a particular competitive university, begin considering applying early decision or early action now. Deadlines are typically in October, and the simple act of applying early will put your application at the top of the list.
Is early decision right for me?
There are some disadvantages to apply early decision. Colleges expect that an early decision student enroll if accepted, unless the financial aid package is not doable for the family.
Early action plans offer a bit more flexibility as students can still apply early and express their serious interest, but are under no obligation to accept the offer and can still go about applying to other schools at the same time.
Single-choice early action works the same way as regular early action accept the student is not allowed to apply to multiple colleges early.
Some colleges have rolling admissions which means the college makes decisions as the application comes in.
In all of these scenarios applying early to a school sends a serious signal to the college that you are a student they want to accept. Consider your options carefully and make your decision.
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