What About Early Action?
Applying EA may or may not increase your chances of admission, but it can’t hurt unless you need: more time to write a really great application, higher test scores, or to count senior year grades. If you need more time to do these things, you may want to apply Regular Decision.
Getting an early acceptance in your senior year reduces stress and may shorten your college list. The downside? You may get bad news earlier in your senior year before you get any good news. This can be important feedback, however, since you may have overestimated your chances of being admitted to the colleges on your list. Accept it as a reality check and adjust your college list accordingly. Also, know that you may be accepted in, say, December but have to wait until March for your financial aid award.
So how do I decide whether to apply ED, EA, or RD? (A Brief Step-by-Step Guide)
First, do your research. Go through the college search process described on our post, which means you should:
Go through a process of self-discovery to learn what you want,
Research a bunch of colleges,
Check to see if one college is perfect for you, and then,
Generate a long list of at least five reasons why this is so.
I’d recommend doing Step 4 whether you’re writing a “Why us” essay for that school or not, as your ability to articulate your “why” will serve you during your interview (if the college has one).
Make sure you can check ALL the boxes under “Who is Early Decision best for in general?”
Run the Net Price Calculator to make sure you can afford it.
Learn how much demonstrated interest matters to the school by consulting Jennie and Jeff’s chart and notice: 1.) Do the college’s ED and RD acceptance rates differ significantly? 2.) Does the school fill a large percentage of its class via Early Decision? (I’d say 60% counts as a “large” percentage of students, whereas ten percent is not.)
And just in case this wasn’t already obvious: I’m not saying you should apply ED to a school simply because a chart tells you that you may have a better chance of getting in. Steps 1-6 will be essential.
Does all that feel like too much to do on your own? If so:
Talk to your counselor.
In fact, do this even if you do all the steps above. Your counselor (if you have one) will be able to advise you based on both your academic profile and their knowledge of how students from your school have fared in recent years during early application rounds for the school(s) you’re considering. But, again, don’t base your decision *only* on this information. Weigh your counselor’s advice in the context of all the other factors you’re weighing and make sure you’re clear on how that school will help you explore and expand upon your core values.
Oh, you thought you’d get out of this post without me mentioning the V word? Oh well.