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Is it Worth Doing Early Action?

Everyone knows that the admissions process can be grueling especially when you have to make so many decisions before you even submit an application.  One decision that is especially harrowing is which admissions option to choose.  Are you interested in early action, early decision, rolling, or regular admission?  And if you do choose to do early action (EA) or early decision (ED), is it really worth it? 

The answer to that question lies in how much preparation you’ve put into the admissions process already, whether or not you have a top choice college, and lastly your (and your parents’) financial situation.

Some students and their parents start planning for college in middle school.  They begin to keep what can be thought of as a portfolio of achievements.  They choose which extracurricular activities, academics, and sports to participate in based on how it will look on their college application; overall, they focus entirely on becoming the type of student they think colleges want.  For this type of student, early decision or early action might be the best choice.

Then you have your average student.  This student is roughly aware of admissions guidelines and policies.  She might know that she wants to attend college, but hasn’t made any concrete plans for college yet.   This student might also be trying to decide between other options such as joining the military or going straight into the workforce after high school.  

If you’re roughly like the student in the first example, then early action or early decision might be the best option for you.  If you have already taken your college placement tests, written your essays, and taken care of the other steps necessary in the admissions process, ahead of your peers, then early action or early decision is definitely worth it for you.  While everyone is worrying about whether or not they’ll be admitted to college, you may already have your acceptance letter in hand, which means you can focus on mentally preparing for college and doing enjoyable tasks like taking care of your college living arrangements. This could mean a stress free senior year and time to really enjoy the last year of your high school career without worrying about college next fall.

If your situation is similar to the student in the second example, then maybe early decision and early action aren’t the best options for you.  Why?  If you aren’t sure if you’re interested in college, yet you apply to a college and get accepted under early decision, then you’re obligated to attend that college.  Similarly, early action would be a waste of time for you if you’re still not sure if college is right for you in general, are rushing to complete the necessary essays, and haven’t narrowed down which college would be the best fit.

Secondly, it’s not worth applying early action or early decision if you don’t have a preference for one school over another.  Early action and early decision are designed for those students who clearly have a top choice school.  These are the individuals who might want to attend a particular school because it is a family tradition or early action and early decision are ideal for a student who knows that a particular school offers their exact major or offers, for example, an athletic program that the student would want to be involved in for the duration of their undergraduate career.

Finally, whether or not early action or early decision is worth it also depends on your financial situation.  If you and your parents have agreed that a certain amount of money will be allocated towards your college education and a financial aid package wouldn’t be a factor in that decision, then early decision or early action will work fine for you.

However, if you’re at the other end of the spectrum and will rely on financial aid to help you pay for college, then choosing EA or ED would not be your best option.  Early decision especially would not be your best option because you cannot compare financial aid packages offered from other colleges.  The idea of early decision is that, if you are accepted, you make a commitment to go to your top-choice college.  This would mean accepting their financial aid package as well, without knowing if another college would have offered you a better financial arrangement.

Overall, early action and early decision isn’t a one size fits all admissions model.  It is a highly individualized decision.  Whether or not these admissions options are worth it depends on what you as the student are looking for from the admissions process.  Speak with your independent educational consultant and various admissions representatives to explore your options --- with their help, you should be able to ultimately choose the admissions option that works best for you and your unique situation. 

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