For those college seniors who decided to apply under one of the early admission plans for the fall semester of 2010, last week was a big week. As my high school sophomore noted, “Everyone on campus (of his college prep school) is tense and freaking out.” A little less so after Monday, when Columbia, Brown, Georgetown, Syracuse and others released their early admission decisions via email. Applicants to Yale were told that decisions would be available Tuesday “evening,” which led all those applicants to ponder when exactly does afternoon end and evening begin? How often is it reasonable to hit “refresh” on your keyboard? Evening in New Haven is still afternoon in San Jose. What then?
The reality is that if you apply early, last week was the week from hell. If you apply under regular admission plans, your turn comes in April. Why not get it over with? However, it’s not as simple as narrowing your list down and then submitting all your applications in September and October. You need a plan, and it is as tactical as your best game of Halo or Battleship. It is worth it to do your research, analyze the data, and then formulate an admissions plan to suit your goals.
There are many different kinds of early admissions plans. Here they are, outlined with specific details about what each of these terms means:
• Rolling Admissions – Applicants are reviewed in the order in which they are received, and decisions are made on a continual or “rolling” basis. Choose one safety school that has rolling admissions and apply there as soon as possible. You will have one “yes” early on and that alone will give you incredible peace of mind. University of Oregon is an example of a school with rolling admissions, as is the University of Arizona.
• Priority dates – Perks are given to those applicants who apply by a certain deadline. For Penn State, if you apply by November 30th, you are given “priority” for first choice of campus and major.
• Early Action – This is the non-binding, non-exclusive route for applying for an early admission decision. For example, at Villanova if you apply by November 1st, you will be notified about your decision by December 20th. However, as it is non-binding, you still have until May 1st to decide.
• Early Response – At the University of Michigan, they do not offer either Early Action or Early Decision, but rather Early Response. “The University of Michigan Office of Undergraduate Admissions is pleased to continue the ‘Early Response’ program for prospective freshman applying for Fall 2010. If your completed application is postmarked by November 1st, your decision will be released no later than December 24th.” This plan is also non-binding and non-exclusive.
• Restrictive Early Action or Single Choice Early Action – For another twist on early admissions, there are also these two options. At Boston College (Restrictive Early Action) the system “…does not permit students to apply under our Early Action program if they are applying to a binding Early Decision program at another college. Students are free to apply to other Early Action and Regular Decision programs.” And at Yale, (Single Choice Early Action), here is what they have to say: “If you would like an admissions decision by mid-December, you may apply under Yale’s Single Choice Early Action Program. “Early Action” means that our program is non-binding. You may still make applications to any other schools you wish for a regular spring decision, and you have until May 1 to tell us whether you are accepting an offer of admission. ‘Single Choice’ means that you must sign an agreement on your application stating that Yale is the only early admissions program to which you are applying.”
• Early Decision – This one is the granddaddy of them all. If you apply and are accepted, the commitment is binding and that’s where you are going to college. You, your parents, and your guidance counselor all sign a contract agreeing to those terms as part of your application. Boston University, Syracuse, and Brown are all schools that utilize the Early Decision program.
So do your research, make a plan, and take advantage of one or several of the early admission plans available. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your holiday break instead of scrambling to get your applications complete. If all goes as planned, you will have one (or more) sure thing in your hip pocket for the following fall.