The Basics of Applying Early to College

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Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

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Applying to college early action or early decision is becoming a more popular trend; and, one of the most important strategies we can use with students applying to college. Many Ivy League colleges are accepting 50% or more of their class in this early pool. What’s more, this number if often rising. In this article, we will discuss early application strategies that you can use in this process. We will also look at trends among colleges and yield rates.

Early Application Strategies

Applying to more colleges, and applying early: what do they have in common? They are two strategies that all high school seniors can use in the college admissions process. Particularly here, we will discuss the second key action we can take: applying early.

There are several application cycles that students can apply to across US colleges. These include non-restrictive early action, restrictive early action, early decision, rolling admission, etc. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the first three application processes. Let’s discuss how we can leverage them to increase our chances of admission.

Non-restrictive early action

Many colleges including Harvard have non-restrictive early action programs as of 2017. In this program, students apply by November 1 and hear back on their decision by December 15 of the same year. The regular decision cycle often starts on December 31st, and students hear back on April 1.

Applying in this cycle means that students are not obligated to attend if admitted. This phase often attracts recruited athletes, legacy students, and superstar academic students. If we do not fall into these buckets, we have to prove an extraordinary desire to attend the college, and be preparing for our other applications while we submit this cycle.

Legacy applicants are those that have direct parents or grandparents that attended that school. Different schools care different amounts about legacy, but generally it is viewed positively (there are some exceptions like MIT as of 2017).

Recruited athletes are those that are in contact with the university prior to the admissions process. These students are aware of the necessary requirements, often have a calculated Academic Index (AI) score, and are in touch with the school coaches.

Superstar academic students are those that score near perfect on their exams or at least 3 standard deviations above the mean for that particular school. This is true in their standardized tests, their GPA, and their activities, often.

Applying non-restrictive early action gives us the benefit of knowing the result with at least 1 university before most are due. This gives us emotional reassurance and can save us in application fees if we happen to get in. We would not apply to many universities that we initially planned to if we get in non-restrictive early action.

Restrictive Early Action

Stanford and other elite colleges offer restrictive early action, which generally follows the same trend at non-restrictive EA. Some argue that because it is slightly more restrictive it may be easier, but we believe that is not the case.

The schools offering REA tend to be dream or reach schools, and therefore attract many applicants. Those applying under non-REA schools can also hedge their bets by applying to two or three non-REA schools at the same time. We do have a slight preference towards non-restrictive early action for this reason.

Generally, if you do not fit under the three types of applicants schools like to take in non-restrictive early action, REA will be the same.

Early Decision

For candidates that are borderline and are aiming for top schools or are aiming for reach schools that have Early Decision, this is a great option. Early Decision is binding, which means that the student has to attend if accepted, but demonstrated our interest in the university.

Many of our students end up at Cornell or Columbia by applying Early Decision, with grades that would most likely get them rejected in the regular decision process. We recommend this approach for students are not set on one particular school, that do not have perfect grades but want to apply to competitive schools, or who particularly like a school that offers ED.

Key Takeaways

Applying to college early is one of the biggest levers we can use as an applicant to college. In this article, we discussed the three big types of early application processes and the ideal candidate for each. For more tips on the admissions process, chat with a team member today.

Questions? Let us know!