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Early Application Popularity Continues to Steadily Grow

Friday, January 05, 2018

More and more, rising early action (EA) or early decision (ED) applications are impacting the college admissions landscape at colleges and universities across the nation.  

The application calendar continues to push back toward early in the senior year, with some colleges using a slightly different set of admissions criteria or aiming to fill seats in the early rounds. Others employ the early schedule to manage their inflows both in the admissions office as well as in the financial aid office.  

The Reality Behind Applying Early

Early applicants typically find themselves in a smaller pool than do regular decision applicants, hence admissions officers may be able to devote more time to reading each individual application, potentially resulting in a more nuanced review. In addition, since ED becomes a binding commitment to attend once the student is admitted, students who pursue this route are thereby indicating to the college that the school is the student’s clear first choice. For those schools that aim to fill a significant percentage of seats in the early rounds, applying ED may enable the applicant a higher likelihood of admission versus waiting to submit an application with a much larger regular decision (RD) pool.

Still, some schools pursue a policy of accepting only "stand-out" applicants in the early rounds, more often than not deferring these applicants to the RD rounds. Deferred applications are later reviewed, enabling colleges to make decisions across a larger and complete pool of applicants.

Given that students applying ED are at the time of application making a commitment to attend regardless of financial need, it is commonly said that ED is the bastion of those who have the means to pay for college without the need to compare favorable merit, grant or loan awards. ED may also appeal to those students who have begun their college process relatively early and/or have taken the time to visit individual campuses to enable a single-choice focus.

Although not all colleges offer ED or EA schedules, there is no controversy around the stark reality that, generally speaking, ED or EA policies help drive applications to colleges. Given the growing numbers of early applications many colleges have been seeing over the last several admissions cycles, the clock on the college timeline ticks on with the trend toward early application likely to continue.  READ MORE


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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com



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