Should You Submit an Early Application?
By Katherine L. Cohen, PhD
March 12, 2009
Find out if you should submit an early application.
Sometimes the college application process can feel like a smorgasbord of confusing acronyms, deadlines and restrictions. Not only do you have to understand what ED I, ED II, EA, RD and REA stand for, but you also have to make various decisions concerning these acronyms, decisions that could affect your entire college application process. Are you sure you know which type of application is best for you? The following suggestions and questions should give you a better understanding of how to recognize if you’re ready to take advantage of a college’s early application program.
- Know the difference between Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA).
If you apply Early Decision, make sure this school is really your top choice and that you can really envision yourself there. By applying Early Decision, you are signing a contract. This contract commits you to enrolling at that college if you’re accepted. You must also withdraw all other college applications. If you apply Early Action, on the other hand, you can still submit other college applications even if you’re accepted.
- Submit your application on time.
Are you certain of the school’s deadline? Some EA/ED applications are due on November 1st; others are due November 15th. Don’t make the fatal mistake of sending in your application even a day late, as many colleges will not entertain a late early application. Important note: know if your college’s EA/ED deadline is a received by or postmarked date.
- Are you ready to apply EA or ED?
If so, then make sure you have asked yourself the following questions:
- Have you done thorough research on this school? Hopefully, you’ve visited the school at least once (absolutely recommended for ED applicants).
- Have you given yourself ample time to work on your application? Does it represent you in the best possible light? Do not send a rushed early application.
- Is your standardized testing profile complete and have you submitted official score reports to your ED/EA school?
- Did you finish your junior year on an impressive note? Since colleges will not see your senior year grades, your junior year coursework and grades will be especially scrutinized.
- Have you had a conversation about early applications with your guidance counselor? Your guidance counselor must support your decision to apply early and verify that you understand the contractual obligations therein.
- Have you secured two great teacher recommendations (preferably from your 11th grade teachers)? Your teachers in senior year likely have not had you in class long enough to provide the kind of recommendation you need for an early application.
- If you need financial aid, have you had a conversation with the financial aid office at your EA/ED schools and understand how financial aid is awarded to early applicants? If you will need to compare need-based or merit-based financial aid awards between colleges, an early decision program may not be in your best interest. With EA, however, this is not as crucial a consideration.
After you’ve answered these questions, you should feel confident about submitting (or not submitting) an early application. Remember, this is a conversation you must have with your teachers, parents and guidance counselor. Although it is very easy to be excited about applying to your first choice school, remember, you do not need to feel pressure to apply early if you are not ready. Good luck and keep up the hard work!