If you are proactively thinking about your college plans now, no doubt you’ve heard about applying “early”. In an early plan, you apply to a college in the fall of your senior year, and receive a decision during the winter. Sounds like a great plan, right? It can be, but there are definitely variables to consider.
Different colleges offer different types of early options. The most restrictive is early decision. With an early decision application, you are agreeing to withdraw any other applications and matriculate at your early decision college if you are offered admission. Under early action, you may or may not (in the case of single choice early action) be able to apply to other early action programs. If you are admitted to your early action school, you are not required attend, and you may take until May 1 to make up your mind where you would like to matriculate.
While early programs sound like a winning situation, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of applying early. At some colleges, it is statistically easier to gain admission in the early round. However, if you are unsure of your first choice, committing in the fall of your senior year could leave you with doubts as spring approaches. While an early decision college will give you a financial aid package with your acceptance, if finances or merit scholarships are going to be critical to your decision, you will benefit by having multiple options.
It’s also important to think about the application that you are submitting to the colleges and whether the intervening time between an early evaluation and the regular evaluation will improve your profile. Are your grades on an upward trend? Is your senior year curriculum substantially more rigorous than the previous years? Are you hoping to raise your test scores? A yes to any of these questions might offer a reason to wait for the main admissions round.