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What Are The Pros and Cons of Applying Early to College?

February 27, 2013
Written by Rachel B. Rubin

The pros of applying early are:

  • Possibly increasing your chances of getting in: The acceptance rates are often significantly higher for Early Decision applicants than Regular applicants, and are somewhat higher for Early Action applicants than Regular applicants. This is the main reason why most people apply early. However, reasons for this higher admit rate remain unclear. Many people assume it is because colleges give preference to students who apply early, yet it may simply be a result of stronger applications from Early Decision and Early Action applicants;
  • Lowering your stress by decreasing the time you are waiting for a decision;
  • If you find out you were accepted early before submitting your Regular decision applications, it can save much time and expense on other applications;
  • If you are not admitted to the college to which you applied Early Decision, you will usually find that out before Regular applications are due. So, it may be a valuable wake-up call that would allow you to reassess your options and ensure you are applying to at least a few schools that are less selective than the one you applied to early.

The cons of applying early are:

  • A lower likelihood of receiving a strong financial aid package: If a college knows that you have a binding agreement, and are thus required to attend it if you are admitted, the college has a much lower incentive to offer you a strong financial aid package. Moreover, if you apply Early Decision and receive an insufficient financial aid package, you cannot apply elsewhere to see if you receive more financial aid. It is for this reason that I strongly discourage students who need financial aid from applying Early Decision (although you can certainly still apply Early Action);
  • No flexibility if you change your mind and want to attend a school other than the one you applied to Early Decision;
  • Pressure to decide which school to attend before you are ready;
  • Timeline challenges: Students who apply Early Decision normally don’t find out if they are admitted until December 15, leaving appropriately two weeks to finish your Regular decision applications of you were rejected. This is challenging for students who slack on their Regular decision applications until learning whether they were accepted early. Thus, if you are applying early, it is critical that you continue to give sufficient time and attention to your Regular decision applications. I know it might seem like a waste of time if you are admitted Early Decision (which hopefully you are!) but it would be worse to wait and find out you were rejected.
  • Slacking senior year: If you were admitted Early Decision, it is understandable to feel less pressure to excel during senior year. However, keep in mind that colleges have the right to rescind their offers if your grades fall below a certain threshold.

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