What Is Early College Admission?

November is the season for early college decision programs, and this application season may be more popular than ever.

Shawna Newman

October 12, 2021

Is it a good choice or mistake to apply early? Find out the two types of early college admissions and if they’re right for you.
What Is Early College Admission?
High school students with a college-bound mindset (and their parents) may have heard of the early college admissions application or early decision plan—if you haven’t you probably will soon. If you’re a senior, November is typically the season for early decision programs. School years aside, if you’re a junior listen up—you'll want to know the details, so you’re prepared for your senior year of high school too. Most colleges and universities have two types of early college admissions: early decision and early action. These types of admission decisions are a way to let your dream college(s) know they’re your number one choice.
According to Grown and Flown, "...many institutions have a significantly higher admit rate during this round [early admissions] than during the regular decision round." In a recent article U.S. News reports, regular-decision admissions is “quickly becoming the road less traveled” and “According to the College Board, some 450 colleges have one or both of these [early admissions] plans.” So why would you choose to submit your college application early? What’s early admission vs early decision? How is early admission different from regular admission?

Early Decision

Early decision is a binding, early contract. In this case you're committed to attending. Meaning you must attend that college or university, if you’re accepted as an early applicant and you receive a reasonable financial aid package. Here are important things you need to know about early decision: • You can’t apply to other schools. Once accepted, you must withdraw any applications sent to other colleges. • You’ll not be applying to any other colleges or universities.

When Early Decision May Be a Good Idea

If you have no doubt you want to go to a particular college. Your student profile is like other students who go to that university. You’d like to avoid any late-spring, admissions crunch your senior year of high school. You and your family dwindled down your college list and have virtually visited this college. Basically, you know what you’re going to get. It’s a done deal for you—you’re only waiting on that acceptance letter before you display your college pennant. Naturally college admissions counselors enjoy early decision students. It takes a lot of the back and forth, out of their process. You’re a shoe in, and in turn, it doesn't take as much effort to sell their college.

Reasons to Reconsider an Early Decision Application

If you’re concerned about the financial aid package you’ll get from this university. Although some college admission counselors can estimate the financial aid package you may get before you apply, it’s only an estimate. You’re curious about a few other schools. You’re locked in and don’t have the option to change your mind with this path. Listen, there’s not a lot worse than making a decision you’ll regret. If you have even thought about attending another college, you should reconsider the early decision application route. A final decision will need to be made soon. You’ll have less time to explore your higher education options. You could use the second semester to boost your final GPA. If your grades could use some work or you know you can increase your GPA by the end of senior year, you may want to hold off. Remember, some schools provide merit scholarships based upon your GPA/academic standing. You don’t want to lose this financial aid opportunity if you feel like you can turn things around in the spring. You application may not stand out as much. Those that apply for early decision are often very qualified candidates. This could make it harder for your application to get noticed. Early decision isn't for everyone! Apply for early decision only if you're 100% sure where you want to attend school and are confident that you'll be accepted.

Early Action

Similar to early decision, you’re showing a strong interest in your top pick college. You’d apply early fall and usually get a decision from the university mid-December. Here is what makes early action different from early decision: • You’re not contracted to attend if admitted. • You can apply early action to other schools. • If accepted, you may choose to accept the offer immediately or wait to consider offers of admission and make your final decision on College Decision Day (May 1 is the regular decision norm).

When Early Action May Be a Good Choice

You may enhance your acceptance odds. Since you’ve acted early, the university knows they’re a top-choice college for you. Also, something to consider—the college enrollment decline could also amplify the admissions team to call dibs on you as a student; ensuring they don’t lose out on more students in the fall of 2021. You match the student criteria standards of current students attending that university. You know you’ll preform well as an “XYZ” university student, but you’d like to hear what financial aid packages you can get from more top-choices. You can compare financial aid packages. You’ll have the ability to compare financial aid packages. This can help you find a more affordable college, and the best financial fit for you. You’d prefer to avoid the common, acceptance stress in the last few months of your senior year. Your senior year is a big deal. There’s Prom, senior photos, senior skip day and so many other activities you’d like to truly appreciate. Plus, you know this is THE school you’ll go to if the financial aid package works for you.

Reasons to Reconsider an Early Action Application

There are not too many reasons to reconsider an early action application, if this is the route you’d like to take. Here are some things to think about when applying early action: Your application may showcase as the best of the batch. In most cases, students applying for early college admission are some of the very brightest. Consider this as you apply for early action. You’ll likely have multiple application fees to pay for. Most colleges require an application fee, and you’re probably planning on applying to more than one university for early action. Take this into account as you begin to submit your early action applications.

Keep Applying for Scholarships

If you do decide to proceed as an early admissions applicant, don’t forget to keep applying for scholarships. If accepted, use your spring downtime to get in more scholarship applications. Set up a free Fastweb profile to be matched to scholarships that fit you AND the college you’ve decided to attend.

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