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by Liz Jackson


Just last week, several of our clients had the special experience of submitting their first college applications–before their senior years of high school even began! While many students are still a few weeks away from submitting their first applications and remain totally on track in their processes, our college counselors always work with students to be “ahead” of any college deadlines.  Here is why we have found that it pays off to be early!


Many Colleges Offer Rolling Admission: Colleges offering rolling admission review applications as soon as they are received (as opposed to evaluating all applications at one time, after a certain deadline).  For most rolling admission colleges, applicants hear back about their admission decision within 4-6 weeks, and sometimes even sooner!  This means that, if you apply to a rolling admission college in September, you’ll get your decision in October, and if you apply in January, you’re likely to hear back in February. For certain programs–University of Pittsburgh’s Honors Program, or Clemson’s Nursing program, for example–spots are limited, and they fill up quickly. So, rolling applications received earlier in the cycle are much more likely to get favorable results than those received later.  Additionally, our counselors often encourage students to apply to at least one rolling admission college where data suggests they are likely to be admitted.  Why?  We’ve found that getting some positive feedback and an acceptance letter early in your senior year makes this whole process feel a lot easier and less stressful! But to be able to take advantage of that benefit, you have to apply early!


Early Decision can Boost your Admission Chances:  You may have heard that colleges are doing a lot to track the ways applicants have interacted with and researched their campuses before they apply.  This is called “Demonstrated Interest,” and the reason colleges track demonstrated interest (though, of course, not ALL colleges do) is because they are interested in improving their “yield”–the percentage of students whom they offer admission, who choose to attend. Higher yield numbers improve the college’s rankings. And colleges’ research has shown that applicants who demonstrate a lot of interest prior to applying are more likely to enroll at the college than applicants who demonstrate less interest.  Applying Early Decision to a college is the strongest demonstration of interest that a student can make! This is because Early Decision is a binding agreement, where the student agrees that they will attend their Early Decision college, if the college admits them. For this reason, students can only apply to ONE college Early Decision at a time. And, our counselors strongly discourage students from applying Early Decision to a college that they haven’t thoroughly researched–visited, ensured affordability for their family, etc. While early decision is not for every student, and many colleges don’t even offer early decision, it is one of the few strategic decisions a student can make early in their senior year. Things like grades and impressions made upon teachers are typically no longer in a student’s control once it is September of senior year. But choosing to apply early decision to your first-choice college may be a choice you can make that will improve your odds of admission. Many colleges fill upwards of 50% of their incoming classes with early decision applicants, so, again, your odds go up if you are in that early decision pool! And, as an added benefit, many colleges have found that students admitted early decision tend to report being happier on their campuses and earning higher GPA’s in college–maybe shows how finding that right-fit school has lots of benefits! Researching colleges early and working on your applications to be ready to send in advance of early deadlines is what enables you to possibly take advantage of these benefits. 


Navigating the different application deadlines and decision plans, and understanding the terminology and the strategy involved is COMPLEX. Luckily, though, we are here to help walk you through it, and we would be excited to help you find your right-fit college!  Assisting with not just the applications, but the development of a list of colleges that matches your needs academically, socially, and financially is one of our favorite things to do.  We hope you will reach out to learn more about college counseling!

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