College early action applications Answered
Is there an advantage to applying early to competitive colleges? I heard that in early applications usually the applicants pool is stronger, does this mean you are competing with stellar candidates. What are advantages vs disadvantages applying early?
I would consider mine is academically strong, should I apply early or wait? What is the best approach.
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Hi there @hraj,
There are two common version of applying early, Early Decision and Early Action. Both are usually in early November, a couple months ahead of the Regular Decision application date. In most cases, ED/EA students also get their decision notification earlier than regular applicants, which many colleges stress is the primary advantage of applying early.
Both Early Decision and Early Action tend to have higher acceptance rates than their Regular counterparts at a given school. For example, this year Harvard's Early Action acceptance rate was twice as high as it's Regular Decision acceptance rate.
However, how much of an 'advantage' Early deadlines give you really depends on the school. Some schools have higher discrepancies than others, which is based on a number of factors, many related to the actual applicant pool itself.
For instance, much of the inflated rate has to do with self-selection in the applicant pool. Students applying Early, especially to those with restrictive deadlines, are those that are committed to the school entirely and have thought through their application, as well as created a strong profile in advance of the Early deadline. Advantaged groups like legacies are also likely to apply earlier and have a higher chance of admission.
If you feel you have an academically sound application with strong extracurriculars, and have the time to write out well-thought-out essays, you should definitely apply early to the school of your choice. But know that applying with a subpar application won't give you the Early advantage; in other words, admissions officers won't accept an application that they wouldn't accept during regular admissions.
A final consideration is the number of students in the incoming class. Some elite schools will fill as much of 50% of their incoming class with Early Applicants. So, there are more Early positions available per applicant in the incoming class, and less spots per applicant available for Regular candidates, which is reflected in the disparate acceptance rates.
Unlike other countries, applying to colleges either EDI, EDII, EA, or SCREA means you are applying early with or without restrictions alongside these other applicant pools.
These other sub-pools include:
1. Recruited athletes - It's usual and normal for varsity athletes who have been recruited by various schools to apply early because it gives them the best chances of getting a place in the class.
2. Legacies - These are sons and daughters for parents who attended the college and are now alumni.
3. Development candidates - These are sons and daughters of families who made large monetary donations to the school ($1-20 million USD)
4. Faculty - Sons and Daughters of professors or admin or staff that work at the school.
5. VIP - Celebrities like famous activists or actors and actresses
6. Deans list - Special favors called in by the dean or chancellor of the university. These might be business or political favors.
So let's say you apply to Dartmouth ED. Their ED acceptance rate might be around 22% vs 6% for RD. Last year in the ED pool they accepted 591 or 1/3 of their total class, however perhaps 325 slots were accounted for by the other sub-pools so in reality they only took 266 of 2664 ED applicants or 10%. So while 10% is better than 6%, you are competing with typically stronger applicants for whom Dartmouth is their #1 school. So in the end, there is a slight advantage for applying early but not great.
My comments are primarily for US Citizens and Permanent residents applying. Dartmouth like some other Ivys and Elites have much lower admit rates for Int'l students. 2% is the going admit rate at Dartmouth for Int'l Students. 1.37% at MIT.
If you are an International Student, I would err on the side of caution for applying early to certain top schools because they are Need-Aware, not Need-Blind. Dartmouth, UPenn, and Cornell are Need-Aware meaning they will take into account your family's financial ability to pay as part of the admissions process. If you get accepted by a Dartmouth ED, it will be difficult to negotiate for a better financial aid package as an Int'l student after admittance. You have the opportunity to appeal if you don't get enough aid but that process takes time and effort. If it doesn't work out for you, you will be released from your ED contract and can still apply to other schools.
Due to the hypercompetitive admissions environment in the US, I often suggest that International students take a step back and not rush into it without having all the facts. If you have checked all the boxes and feel you are a top contender for all the best schools on your list, then you should apply with optimism and positivity. If 1 or more key admission factors like lower GPA or missing coursework or intellectual vitality put you at a disadvantage, it's best to consider the possibility of delaying your application and fixing those deficiencies by either taking a gap year, repeating course work, or attending a Post Graduate program at a private high school.
Good luck with your future college admissions journey.
Hi, thank you for asking your question. Before I begin, I would like to mention that what @CameronBameron has mentioned is accurate and very helpful. I'd like to provide some more information that may be useful.
There are a few disadvantages to applying early. 1) If you apply ED to a school, you are contractually binding yourself to attending a school if you are admitted. The ED option should therefore be used if you are definite about attending the school, meaning it may be your "dream" school, you can pay the full-price for attendance (usually schools are de-incentivized to give merit aid to these students, not to say it never happens), you are committed to attending the school for other reasons aside from its prestige. 2) The applications are due a lot earlier. This means that you have to be very organized to write quality applications in time for the deadline which may be months ahead of the regular decision date. 3) The limited options of schools who have early action/decision. You may not be able to optimize applying early to all the schools you want.
The advantages of applying early to a school are many. 1) We like to say that applying early gives you a multiplier effect on your chance of admissions. Specifically, if you apply EA (1.10-1.15 x RD admissions chances) and ED (1.2-1.25 x RD admissions chances). If I have a 50% chance of admissions to University X, then applying EA may increase that to 55-57.5%. This is because you demonstrating commitment to the schools you are applying to, making them more interested in admitting you to increase their own enrollment yield, therefore embellishing their own brand and prestige. 2) You can pace the time of your applications. Applying early allows you to prioritize applications earlier than others, allowing you to space out your application writing over all of Fall. If done correctly, you can write quality applications without cramming too many schools as the RD deadline approaches.
If you are confident you can write quality applications for the earlier deadlines, I say it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and apply early. If you want more clarification or a different perspective, check out these blog posts for more information!
Hope this helps!
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