Should You Apply to College Early?

August 27, 2015 – By Coach Lindsey   CAA knows from experience that college applicants ask a lot of questions, and we encourage this, especially if they can’t find the answer on their own. One question CAA Coaches always receive is whether or not students should apply to college early. It’s a great question to ask because applying early isn’t the best decision for every student. Hopefully this short blog will start to answer the question, “Should I apply early?”   First, I want to bust two common myths of applying early:   Myth #1: You’ll get more financial aid.   Applying early doesn’t automatically mean that you will receive more financial aid than if you applied by the regular deadline. It’s true that some colleges consider only early applicants for certain types of scholarships, but you are not guaranteed more money just because you applied early.   Myth #2: You’re more likely to get accepted.   It also doesn’t automatically increase your chances of admission. Some colleges have an early deadline to find out who is more interested in their school, or they simply need to break up their application season. There are a few colleges that give early applicants a little more respect when reviewing their application, but there’s a problem: you won’t know which colleges actually do give early applicants more consideration until you work in their admissions office.   Next, I want to help those considering applying early to understand whether it is a good decision for them, specifically. We recommend that you talk with a high school counselor or a CAA Coach (clients only) before making a final decision. However, if you answer yes to all of the following, you should highly consider applying early:   (1) Is the college your top choice or one of your top three choices?   (2) At the beginning of your senior year, have you already taken the SAT or ACT and earned scores that reflect your academic abilities?   (3) Does the college offer the major you want to study, and do you feel it is a good fit for you overall?   (4) Have you researched and understood its merit aid and financial aid opportunities and policies?   (5) Do you want to know before the winter holidays (of your senior year) whether or not you’re definitely going to college?   If you think applying early is right for you, you next need to understand the difference between the two main early application types: Early Decision and Early Action.   Early Decision – Consider the word “decision.” What does that mean? To colleges it means that you have made a decision to attend their school above all others that you are applying to. A common misconception with early decision is that you can’t apply anywhere else until you’ve heard from the college whether you’ve been accepted or not. This is wrong. You can still apply elsewhere, just not under an early decision (and sometimes early action) deadline – only regular decision or priority deadlines. For this application type, you should have determined that the college is your top, TOP choice, they definitely offer your major (and back-up major), and you understand their financial aid policies. (Understanding financial aid helps you to realize how affordable the college may be for you if you are accepted.) Finally, early decision applicants who are accepted must be prepared to attend that college and cancel any other applications they submitted.   Early Action – This is a non-binding agreement with the college, so unless it is Restrictive Early Action (very rare), you can apply to any other college under their early action deadline. Accepted applicants are not required to attend the school (even restrictive early action), which means you do not have to cancel any other submitted applications. Applying early action is highly recommended, especially for schools that are more selective and for students who are anxious to know their potential college destiny.   While applying early isn’t for all students, CAA recommends that you thoroughly research the admissions and financial aid policies for each college you are applying to regardless of how you apply. We also encourage you to ask questions – don’t apply blindly and without educating yourself first!