How It Works"Early decision" and "early action" are two standard options. Both allow your student to apply early, usually in November before the regular pool of candidates send in their applications. In return, the school lets your student know whether they've been accepted long before the usual acceptance date - often as early as December, before other students have even applied.
Early DecisionEarly decision is binding, which means if your student applies he or she must attend that school if accepted and given a reasonable financial aid package. Additionally, your student must withdraw any applications they sent to other schools. Your student should apply for early decision only if they are absolutely sure about where they want to go to college, if their profile suggests that they will be accepted and if financial aid is not an overriding factor in their college decision. Generally your student should not just be interested in the school, but in specific majors, programs or faculty at the school. It is inadvisable to try to beat the system by applying for early admission at more than one school. Top schools often share lists of early applicants. If your student's name appears on more than one list, he may be barred from all his top-pick schools.
Early ActionUnlike early decision, early action usually isn't binding and your student can apply to a number of schools and compare all admissions and financial aid offers. Most of the time, your student can wait until the late spring before having to make a decision. But college's guidelines vary, so your student should be careful. As with early decision, your student should apply only if they are sure they can compete with other early action applicants. Students with weaker applications may wish to use their junior and senior years to bolster their grades and activities.
The Pros & Cons of Early Decision or Early ActionIt's important to weigh the pros and the cons of these programs. Everybody is different: early decision and early action might be right for one student, but could be a mistake for another.
- If accepted, your student can bypass all the admissions stress that comes with senior year.
- If your student isn't accepted, the application is deferred until the final acceptance decisions are made - so they will have more than one chance to get in. Additionally, your student will have more time to thoroughly explore other schools.
- Applying through one of these plans is a good way for your students to communicate their interest in a school - which might convince admissions officers to consider the application more seriously.
- Your students will have less time to make educational and financial decisions and less time to explore their options.
- Also, by committing to one school, your student rules out other schools that may offer more attractive financial aid packages.
- Your student won't be able to improve your profile with senior year grades and activities.
- Early decision and early action candidates are usually very qualified, so it's harder to make an application stand out.
If your student is interested in early decision or early action, he or she should speak to guidance counselors, ask the prospective school for more information and read the guidelines carefully. Then decide if early decision or early action is right for your student.