There has been a fair amount of information about researching colleges and the importance of that research. However, there are certain things you need to be aware of as you proceed through researching the many types of applications.
One primary thing you should focus on is when you’re going to complete your application and asking yourself if there are things that you can do to give your application an advantage. The answer to that question is “Yes!” But along with these strategies, there are certain pitfalls that you need to be aware of so that you are putting your best foot forward.
One main pitfall is how you apply, and by this I mean which deadline you should meet to present your application. Below you will find the various timelines of applications and it is vitally important that you understand the nuances of each before you commit to any one of them.
If you find that you absolutely love a school more than any other, then you may consider applying by that schools Early Deadline. There is no guarantee that this will help your acceptance, but it is important that you understand the conditions of those early applications.
Early Decision One (ED) is a binding application that requires your attendance, if you are accepted. This means that you must go to that school. You must withdraw all of your applications to other schools without ever knowing whether you got accepted or not. Deadlines are typically in early November and you should hear back by mid December. Early decision acceptances are binding, meaning that if accepted, you’re done! While one of the benefits of early decision applications is that colleges tend to have more generous acceptance rates for early decision applicants, one must be aware of another very important fact: This is not an option for students who are “just trying.”
If you are considering applying to a school for the sole reason of seeing whether you will get in, though you may have another university preference, Early Decision One is not the option for you. It is true that colleges are more generous to students who are appropriate candidates. Schools will not lower their academic standards to accept students that apply early. The generous nature of the school is because they have a higher concentration of outstanding students to choose from. So for students who not only love the school and are outstanding academically and other aspects, early decision is a good choice for those students committed to a particular school. By the way, students may only file one early decision application to one school only.
Early Decision Two is the same as Early Decision One with a deadline usually coinciding with Regular Decision (RD). Early Decision Two notifications often arrive prior to RD decisions. Because the same commitment applies, students may not apply to more than one Early Decision Two institution. It is important to note that if you are not accepted or are deferred to “School A” Early Decision, that it is still possible to apply to "School B" using the Early Decision Two application.
Early Action (EA) is a non-binding application that offers decisions several months before regular decisions. Applications are generally submitted in early or mid November, although some may be due in early December. Applicants receive early notification but they have until the May 1 acceptance deadline to notify the institution whether or not they will attend.
Early Action 2 is the same as above, with a deadline is usually a month or two later than the EA deadline.
Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) is the same as the Early Action application in every aspect except one, students may only apply early to the one Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) school. That means a student may not apply to another institution Early Action, Early Decision, or Priority. Exceptions may be made for rolling admissions. It is important that students check with individual institutions.
Restrictive Early Action: This is similar to SCEA, but not quite as confining. Students may apply to as many EA, Priority, or Rolling application schools as they like but may not apply to another institution via ED.
Priority: Priority deadlines are similar to Early Action in that applicants apply slightly earlier and typically receive an earlier response. As with EA, there is no commitment to attend the institution.
Rolling Admissions application decisions are made as applications are received. Rolling Admissions may have no deadlines or set deadlines. Decisions are often received two to six weeks after submission and are not binding. But it is important to consider applying to these schools as soon as possible. As classes/programs fill up, it becomes increasingly difficult to be admitted.
Regular Decision is what we call the traditional “Pool.” Deadlines for Regular Decisions are generally early to mid January, with decisions coming in no later than April 1. Students are not bound to attend if accepted and are free to submit applications to as many schools as they like.
This is all a bit complicated so it is important to seek guidance for the options which are best for you. In this day of competitive applications and ever decreasing acceptance rates, make sure that you apply appropriately to all of your schools. This means that you have assessed your real abilities – academic, extra-curricular, co-curricular, and that you are a fit for those schools on your list.
Applying to university is not about “just trying,” it is about being a qualified candidate and meeting or exceeding a school’s average acceptance criteria. As I’m sure you are aware, it is very important that while doing research that you understand each school’s admission policies and their individual options for applying – ED, EA, Regular Decision, etc, and make sure that you are making good solid decisions.
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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