The countdown has begun for high school seniors – you should hear your admissions decision by the end of this month. The waiting is almost over!
I volunteer at two high schools, and yesterday I met with my new group of juniors at one of them, just starting their college exploration. Our meeting was punctuated with visits from the current seniors I have worked with over the past year, popping in to tell me they have been accepted here or there. Yes from UC Irvine! Yes from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo! Yes from Lewis and Clark! I told my new juniors that a year from now, they would be popping in to tell me where they have been accepted. [But oh, what a long year this will be for them…!]
This is a good opportunity to make a plug for Early Action and Early Decision programs. If you explore colleges and find a few that you REALLY LIKE, consider applying by their early deadline, if they offer one. Early Decision is binding and you can only apply to ONE college, and if you are accepted, that’s where you are going.
Early Decision benefits the college – because in the end, they are looking for guaranteed full enrollment spots. Early Action, on the other hand, benefits the student. The college agrees to get you an admissions decision earlier than usual, and you are not compelled to attend. It’s a great deal for you – you just have to get that application (and those essays!) done early. But the benefit is incredible. While all of your friends are checking their cell phones for news every 3 and a half minutes, every day this month, you already have a few acceptances in your back pocket! I have a client who has been accepted to six colleges already!!
Additionally, colleges look favorably upon students who commit to them with an early application – even if the commitment is not a solid one to attend. Acceptance rates for early decision and early action candidates are generally higher (documented by this interactive chart in the New York Times). You may hear people say that early slots are “reserved” for athletes, “legacies” (students whose parents or grandparents attended) or students with a specific talent for which a college may be looking. While this can be true at some schools, it’s not true for all, and that doesn’t mean you should’t throw your hat into the early ring!
This all adds up to STARTING EARLY! The earlier you start your college search, the more likely it will be that you will be able to make this type of commitment, and have those essays polished and perfected, before the early deadlines, which are usually around November 1.