Early Action Not Always an Advantage

Written by Lisa Bleich.

In the increasingly competitive admissions process, more and more students are applying early to schools in hopes of increasing their chances of acceptances. William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard was quoted in a recent article in the Harvard Gazette: “Early admission has become the “new normal” in many communities, and that many of the top students across the nation and around the globe continue to apply to colleges early.”

Acceptance rates are no doubt higher when students apply Early Decision (offers that are binding), and many highly select schools aim to fill 40 to 50% of their class with early decision candidates.

However, when looking at Early Action, even though the numbers seem more favorable, at many highly select private colleges, Early Action can backfire for all but the top candidates in that school’s pool. Those top candidates would have been accepted during regular decision, so early action allows them to know early, but does not provide any distinct advantage. A large percentage of candidates are deferred, leaving students disheartened and feeling anxious about their prospects for getting into college at all.

Here are some Early Action figures for HarvardGeorgetown and Yale.

If you were accepted Early Decision or Early Action to your first choice college, congratulations! You can relax for the rest of the year (just not too much!). Also, remember to contact any other schools with pending applications to let them know that you have been accepted ED/EA somewhere else. A simple e-mail will do.

For those of you deferred or denied to an ED or EA school, we feel for you. It is hard to get rejection, but it’s time to regroup and figure out your strategy going forward.  You will find a school that is a great fit and where you will thrive.

Sending Additional Information for Deferrals and Regular Admissions

 If you have relevant, additional information that has happened after you have submitted your application for regular or early decision, it is important to send that information to the schools.  If you were deferred by an ED or EA school, you are now part of the regular applicant pool, and it is important to help yourself stand out.

You will need to send mid-year reports to any schools that you have not yet heard from, so keep up your grades so there is good news to report. Admissions offices have piles upon piles of material that they need to sort through and attach to the appropriate application.  If the information is relevant, send it, if it is not, then err on the side of caution.

So what constitutes relevant information?

  • Scholarships or awards
  • Additional leadership responsibilities
  • Change in activities or additional activities
  • Articles in the paper highlighting your accomplishments
  • National Merit Scholarship

Click here for a great graphic “Should I Send It?” created by Tufts University.

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