Early decision . In this program, you apply to your first choice college either by November 1 or between November 1 and February 1 of your senior year, and make a firm commitment to attend that college if accepted. Early decision is a clear commitment on your part. The college notifies you of its decision either by a specific date or within four weeks of completion of your file. If you are accepted, you must withdraw all other regular admission applications you may have filed while waiting to hear from the early decision college. You can file only one early decision application.
Most schools are unwilling to reject early decision candidates outright. If you are not a clear accept candidate, they will frequently inform you that your application has been deferred, to be reconsidered without prejudice along with the rest of the applicant pool. If your application is deferred, you are of course free to apply to other schools while you wait to hear that school's decision in the spring. Once that happens, you are no longer bound by early decision constraints.
Applying early decision can reduce the stress and strain of your senior year if you are accepted to that one school you really want by December, rather than waiting until April to hear. Applying to a college on this basis can make a big difference to an admissions staff. As Albert Quirk of Dartmouth puts it, "Admissions committees are impressed when a student in effect announces that he or she wants that school above all others. "
Do not apply early unless you have a clear first choice! Do not do it unless your junior year grades and test scores are excellent. Do not apply early just to cut short the often agonizingly long stretch of time between applications and notification. You must be sure that the school you choose for early decision is the school you want to attend in September.
One of the disadvantages of applying early decision is that you have less time to complete your application, be cause the deadlines are earlier. Another disadvantage is the possibility that you could change your mind about the college you have committed yourself to attending. Please remember that you must not put off preparing other applications while you are waiting for an earlydecision notification. If you are rejected or deferred by your early decision choice, you will be way behind in applying to other ones.
On the other hand, if your choice is one that tends to reject early decision candidates rather than deferring them and reconsidering them as regular admission applicants, you may be doing yourself a disservice by applying too early. Consider whether your midterm senior grades might make a more favorable impression than past grades have, or whether an extracurricular honor in sports or the arts might come your way after an early decision has been made. Remember, too, that standards for early decision candidates are often somewhat higher than those for the regular applicant pool. Admissions committees may feel differently about your application after they have measured you against the rest of the students from whom they have to choose. Is your application so strong that an ad missions office will be sure it wants you, without having to check out the competition?
If you are considering early decision, it might be worthwhile to check with the admissions office or with your guidance counselor about how the school's rejection rate will affect your chance.
Even if you are confident of your chances for acceptance, you should think very carefully about an early decision plan. Once you have made the commitment, you cannot back out of it. Selective schools especially, tend to be in touch with one another and would deal very harshly with a candidate who tried to break the earlydecision rules. If your first choice school is clearly far ahead of the others, in your mind, then perhaps early decision is for you. But if you want the flexibility that comes from having a choice, you may want to wait and take your chances with the rest of the applicant pool.
If you do have a strong first choice school that you are sure you would love to attend, and you have a truly superior record by the end of your junior year, you may want to consider the earlydecision option.
Early action. This early notification program is used primarily by Ivy League colleges including Yale, Brown, Princeton, Harvard, and MIT and a few other very selective schools. As with early decision, you can apply for early action at only one college. You must apply by November 1, and the college must notify you of its decision by mid December. An advantage to early action is that you do not automatically commit yourself to that college when you apply. If you are accepted as an early action candidate, you still have until May to accept or decline the offer, and you can apply to other schools in the meantime. If the school you have applied to under the early action plan is clearly your first choice, please consider withdrawing your applications from other schools if you accept the early action offer of admission. "Stockpiling" acceptances is discourteous and knocks other people out of the running.
The disadvantage of early action is that you may be rejected on this basis and you will not be reconsidered at a later date for regular admission. "When we feel confident that an early action candidate will be rejected in the spring, we prefer to make the final decision in December," says admissions dean James Rogers of Brown. In that sense, early action is riskier than early decision. Unless your grades and test scores are so outstanding by the end of your junior year, applying early action could actually hurt your chances of being admitted to the college of your choice.
The exact terms of earlydecision and early action plans vary from college to college, so read the rules of each school carefully before you decide on either plan.
There are a few colleges that have no early notification plans. Stanford is one of them. According to its policy, "The best way for a student to learn about different colleges is to go through the application process; the student who has several acceptances in hand in the spring will make the most informed choice.
You cannot always predict what that "something" will be. All you can do is make sure that you present your self in the best, most interesting, most personalized, and most genuine way throughout your application. You just might become someone's "discovery" on the admissions committee, the person he or she would really like to see admitted.
This strategy is most important when it comes to writing your essay and selecting which teachers you will ask to write recommendations for you. How you present yourself even in the factual sections of the application the ways in which you personalize the information and emphasize the parts of your background you want to stand out can also make a difference. Whether you follow up on this factual information later in your essay may determine whether the college gets a consistent, believable image of who you are.
Copyright 1995 - 1997 --
Educational On-Line Inc.