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College entrance strategy: Early action and early decision

by on January 24, 2019 10:28 AM

Many college-bound students are applying two months ahead of the traditional January admissions deadlines through early action or early decision. 

The trend toward early application has been expanding and many colleges and universities now often fill a third or possibly even half of their upcoming freshman classes through early action or decision, according to a recent article in the Washington Post aptly titled “Early Applications Surge at Prestigious Colleges. So Does Early Heartache.”

In 2018 Penn State also initiated an early action program and, like the University of Michigan last year, had so many early action applicants that it could not review them all by the published deadline and had to defer many perspective students until late January.

Early action, with an application deadline of Nov. 1, is non-binding in that applicants may apply to several colleges and they do not have to commit to attend one of them until May 1. Early decision is a binding commitment. An applicant signs an agreement that, if accepted through ED, he or she will attend that institution, whether they are offered financial aid or not. If students do not get accepted by early action or early decision they are either rejected or deferred.

If deferred they are moved to the pool of applicants for regular decision with deadlines of Jan. 1, 15 or later. How colleges and universities handle deferrals varies. Georgetown University accepted 919 out of 7,802 early action applicants for the class of 2023 and deferred the remaining applicants into the regular admissions pool. This past year Bucknell University deferred only seven percent of its early decision applicants for consideration through regular decision and denied admission for the rest.

So what do you do if you are deferred?

Make contact. Be sure to inform the college that you are still interested, if you are, and that you want to remain on the list for reconsideration through the regular admissions process. Write a personal email or actual letter to any admissions staff who you have met, any coaches, or the admissions representative for your geographic region and tell them of your continued interest.  If you can honestly say that you will attend their college, if accepted, let them know. If you have had an interview, email or call your interviewer about the status of your application. Ask your school counselor to update the college admissions office with your latest grades and keep your contacts informed about new accomplishments since you first applied to their college. 

Have you received any awards, started a new volunteer activity, been elected to a leadership position?  In other words, update the college where you have been deferred about what you will be able to contribute to their campus. If you think you can improve your scores, take the SAT or ACT again. Send a link to your updated resume and to your LinkedIn account. On that LinkedIn account you can feature your experiences and accomplishments along with photos and any videos to showcase your achievements.

Waiting to hear about where you will be going to college next fall is not easy. But remember, you can only control so much of the process. When you have done all that you can, realize that there are many colleges where you can be equally happy and successful.  

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