Early? You mean I need to finish all of this work earlier than it’s regularly due? Okay, okay. This is what I thought at first when all of the seniors last year said I had to apply early. However, even then, I wasn't fully aware of the nuances of the college application process. Having finished all of my applications (finally, woohoo!), I can say with complete assurance that I am content with not applying Early Decision and even more content with applying Early Action.
Early Decision wasn’t for me for a few reasons.
First, I wasn’t 100%-I’m-never-touring-anywhere-else in love with any school. I really liked a few schools, but I’m all about keeping my options open. Maybe it’s a personality quirk of mine, but I’m afraid of 100% committing before I know all of the opportunities set before me.
Second, the dreaded sticker price. Many Early Decision schools are private, and with private schools comes a high price tag. With financial/merit aid, that sticker price can be dramatically reduced. But, in Early Decision, because you’re wholeheartedly committing to the college, the likelihood of scholarships is slim. For me, the risk of not getting aid (whether it be financial or merit) to a university was too big of an obstacle to apply Early Decision.
However, applying Early Action was the best choice I made in the college application process.
In the end, I applied to five Early Action schools and four Regular Decision schools—creating a grand total of nine applications. For some, this may be an exorbitant amount, and for others, this might not be enough. Regardless, I completed lots of applications and I had a lot of time to think—and sometimes question—why I was applying so early.
November 1 is not actually that early in my opinion. If you can make the push to get some of your essays done before school starts and get the work done, you will thank yourself! For many schools, the deadline for merit aid scholarships is December 1, which is only a month after the November 1 deadline. The second you start senior year, you’re going to want to get these applications off your plate! Getting them done early means, well, you’re done with the college application process earlier. Finishing up a few applications over Christmas break was not my idea of relaxation. Save yourself the stress and just get them done.
Something that many don’t often talk about is the strategy of applying. Maybe it’s my inner-Libra, but I love balance, and my Early Action applications were no exception. I had a good mix of likely, target, and reach schools within my Early Action applications. I think this is the best—and honestly the most strategic—way to apply. I applied to two likely schools—one of which was in-state, two target schools—also one of which was in-state, and one reach school—an out-of-state school.
The likely schools give you the momentum that you need in the college application process, and the target and reach schools allow you to stretch your limits. The likely schools made me feel more confident in the application process, but also gave me more time to perfect my applications to my target and reach schools. These three schools all had very lengthy applications so I wanted to ensure that I was sending a perfect, typo-free application. This approach allowed me to focus my efforts on my top choices while still putting my best foot forward on every application. By having a mix of locations, fits, and likelihood of admission, applying early allowed me to feel as if I was doing enough—but not spreading myself too thin.
Even though I applied early, I seem to have picked all of the early schools that don’t notify until mid to late-January. Tragic, I know (but still better than the late March notifications of Regular Decision!). It was often difficult to see my friends get some of their decisions back far earlier than I did for schools that had similar Early Action programs.
But, now that we’re in January, I’ve received some decisions! I’ve been accepted to my two likely schools and one of my target schools (I got the acceptance for this school today, yay!). I’m so excited about my now three potential choices for schools next year and I am hopeful to keep this momentum going—I should hear back from the other two schools in the next few days. Wish me luck!