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A Frightening New Trend: Colleges Pressuring Students Into Applying Early

Beware! Scary admissions officers are on the loose. Don't answer your phones. Don't open those emails. They're coming after you.

Pardon my jest and cynicism on the Eve of Halloween, but the amount of strategy going on among colleges targeting our kids is at an all-time high. It's got to stop.

Over the last week, colleges from around the country have been sending thousands of emails to students who have already submitted Regular Decision applications. Colleges are trying to convince them to apply Early Decision or Early Action. It's frankly disgusting—like fake blood oozing out of the doors of those admissions offices.

Colleges know better. They already buy students' names and PSAT scores so that they can blanket them with recruitment materials well in advance of the admissions deadlines. Students think that if they get a brochure in the mail, it means they are competitive for that college. When, in fact, the only reason colleges are sending materials to these students is to increase their application totals and then deny as many of them as possible to be able to brag that their admit rate is the lowest its ever been. This reminds me of those two-faced costumes nowadays. One side looks kind and inviting, and the other side can't be trusted.

"Ah, colleges. One side looks kind and inviting, and the other side can't be trusted." TWEET THIS

But now, these colleges are taking it one step further. One more dagger in the heart. Just as students are finally feeling a little relief by submitting their application well before the deadline for Regular Decision, they are getting a mysterious message in these emails from their Regular Decision colleges asking them to consider switching their application to an earlier round. Students think this means something more than it does. 

They must have reviewed my application. They must think it's really strong. This must mean that if I switch my application, I'm going to get admitted, right?

WRONG. If something seems spooky and dubious, it probably is.

Here are some tips on how to make sense of this new trend:
  • There is no way that an admissions committee reviewed a student's Regular Decision application in October to be able to properly recommend that the student apply "early" for a better chance of admission.
  • Admissions officers are still traveling the country visiting high schools and meeting students. They haven't even started reading Early Decision or Early Action applications, let alone a Regular Decision application that typically is still missing the transcript and recommendation letters.  
  • The colleges are using an automated system to flag students of interest in their pool: high test-scorers, students coming from certain states, and students from underrepresented backgrounds. They know these students are probably applying "early" to another college and they worry they will withdraw their application once they get admitted to that "early" college. A withdrawn application doesn't count towards their application totals!
  • These emails may look personal, but they're not. They are being sent to anyone colleges can try to convince.
  • Unless the student gets a personalized email from an admissions officer who knows the student and their application inside and out, there is no need to respond.
  • Just because you switch your application, doesn't mean you will be admitted.
What is so devilish about what the colleges are doing is that they will deny a student if they believe the student is strategizing in any way. They say they want authentic students submitting authentic applications. But the colleges aren't being pure in their own intentions. They are tapping into students' vulnerabilities to benefit themselves. If your child is contacted by a college encouraging them to switch their application for better odds of admission, think twice. 
I'm letting the cat out of the bag when it comes to what colleges are willing to do to trick our kids. These ghosts and goblins are not to be trusted until an acceptance has been granted by the good witch.