The Pros and Cons of Applying Early Decision / Early Action

There are pros and cons of applying early decision or early action

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We wrote a post a while back explaining the different ways you can apply to college early decision / early action. In it, we touched on the major benefit of early application: You are up against a smaller pool of applicants. But there’s more to early application than that. You need to weigh the pros and cons carefully against what type of person you are.

Pro: You Receive Your Answer Early

Waiting for news is never fun. And sometimes having others waiting for news with you is beneficial. But in this case, you will have a response from your college before the majority of your peers. You could know where you are going to college at the beginning of second semester!

Con: You Have to Have All Your Materials Ready Much Sooner

I tried applying early action to a school, but I couldn’t get the application together in time. If you have great time management skills, then this probably isn’t a negative, but for many high school students it will be. It’s hard to motivate yourself to work for an optional due date when you have assignments due and tests going on, not to mention any extracurricular activities. November creeps in quickly when you’re not looking, and if you have to write essays for your application or if you need letters of recommendation, you need to start those early (i.e., in the summer).

Pro: Applying Early Decision Means Only One Application

If you are applying via early decision, then you only have to worry about that one application. This is especially true if you are accepted (although it never hurts to have back-ups ready should the school’s response be no). There is no wondering if you should choose one school over another because until you get a response, there are no other schools.

Con: Applying Early Decision Means No Comparison with Other Financial Aid Offers

With early decision applications, you only get one shot. If you are accepted, you are locked in. If a school’s financial aid package doesn’t cover as much as you need, then you’ll have to look at outside scholarships (which you should do regardless), as you cannot weigh your chosen school’s aid offer with any other school’s. Needless to say, make sure you do your research on what kind of aid you can expect.

Pro: Early Action Allows You To Wait Until May for a Decision

Just because you applied early doesn’t mean you have to make a decision until you’re ready. You can take your time to consider all of your options. This allows you to compare programs and financial aid (unlike with early decision) so you can make the best choice for you.

Con: You Lose A Semester’s Worth of Grades and Activities to Apply With

If your GPA is about to go up because of your senior year fall semester, you might want to consider waiting until second semester to apply. You want to be able to present your best work in your application, and that includes your high school grades. If you’re applying with the intention of trying out for a sports team, you want to make sure you have the best possible tapes and information for a coach. Sometimes that means that waiting is better for you.

Pro: Applying Early Means You’re Competing with a Smaller Applicant Pool

Most students don’t apply early. They have too many things going on, or they aren’t sure where they want to go, or a multitude of other reasons. So you’ll be competing among (maybe) hundreds or less rather than thousands.

Con: The Application Pool Is Likely Stronger When You Apply Early

The people who tend to apply early are the ones that have strong applications to offer. This means grades, extracurriculars, essays, and recommendation letters. They are prepared because they know this is something they want. If you are not putting your strongest application forward, it might be better to wait.

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