Early Decision or Early Action: Which is Best for You?

Is early decision or early action is right for you? If you are going into your senior year, you’re probably feeling a lot of excitement and relief that you only have one more year until you’re off in the real world. Finally, no more high school. But there are some serious decisions you need to make very soon, and the best way to know where you’ll want to apply is to visit schools. First, try to tour at least two colleges on your list. This is a nice way to get an inside look at your college of choice and get you even more excited about your future! 

The Common App

You’ll want to get started early no matter what. The completed Common App deadline is January 1st 2020, but you should have been working on it already! Get started in the summer/fall. The Common App opens on August 1st of 2019. You also need to know when your specific schools’ deadlines are, which will be posted on their websites. Keep a checklist of schools with their application dates on your computer or handwritten somewhere it won’t get lost for reference and to stay organized. Here is a link to a PDF document that you can download, which includes a list of all the Common App school submission dates. Figure out if you will be applying early decision (ED), early action (EA), or at the regular date. See below for more information from College Board.

Early Action applicants

  • Apply early.
  • Receive an admission decision early in the admission cycle (usually in January or February).
  • Consider acceptance offer; do not have to commit upon receipt.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Give the college a decision no later than the May 1 national response date.

Early Decision applicants

  • Apply early (usually in November) to first-choice college.
  • Receive an admission decision from the college well in advance of the usual notification date (usually by December).
  • Agree to attend the college if accepted and offered a financial aid package that is considered adequate by the family.
  • Apply to only one college early decision.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Withdraw all other applications if accepted by ED.
  • Send a nonrefundable deposit well in advance of May 1.

But how do you know what to apply for? Here is a simple list from College Board of do’s and don’ts when it comes to early decision/early action:

Applying to an Early Decision or Early Action plan IS NOT appropriate for a student who:

  • Has not thoroughly researched colleges.
  • Is applying early just to avoid stress and paperwork.
  • Needs a strong senior fall semester to bring grades up.
  • Is not fully committed to attending the college.
  • Is applying early only because friends are.

Applying to an Early Decision or Early Action plan IS MOST appropriate for a student who:

  • Has researched colleges extensively.
  • Is absolutely sure that the college is the first choice.
  • Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically.
  • Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college for SAT® scores, GPA and class rank.
  • Has an academic record that has been consistently solid over time.

If you feel you want your colleges to see your senior year grades because you are not yet pleased with your first three years, then early action or early decision may not be right for you. This is good for students who are comfortable with their junior year GPA. For when it comes time to fill out Common App, have your parents ready with you or on the phone because you need a lot of information from them, too. Be sure to save all of your progress as you go on with the Common App because you will NOT finish in one day. Do your research and learn if any of the schools you plan on applying to have another application process in addition to the Common App.

Your College Essay

Your college essay should be done by September at the latest, since the Common App is open by August 1st for submission. Get an early start on it.  If you have not started your essay yet, then is early decision or early action right for you? The answer is no! I started and finished my college essays my junior year going into my summer before senior year so it was one less thing to worry about amidst the stress of applying to schools. I also had a ton of time to draft and edit repeatedly until I was comfortable with it. If you need help with your admission essay, Boston Tutoring Services offers admission essay help. For your top schools, you may also want to set up an admissions interview. You must be in contact with the admission office and determine a date with them if they decide you are a possible candidate for their school. Boston Tutoring Services also offers interview coaching.

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