There are a myriad of aspects that make the college admissions process extremely complex for the average student. Among the many choices that students must consider are the publicly funded state versus private college, the small liberal arts versus the larger, career focused campuses, the urban versus rural settings, as well as the choice of major and of course, the financial aid package available to prospective students. Though all of these factors are important, another is of critical importance to students.
Just as significant as the decisions listed above, today’s students must give careful consideration to a concept known in general as Early Admission. There are essentially two different forms of early admission, that of Early-Decision and another form known as Early-Action Admission. Under the Early-Decision concept, students apply to colleges in November and receive their answers by Christmas. If accepted, students must commit to attending that college. Under Early-Action admission, students may apply early to one school and still submit applications under regular decision to any number of other schools. Again the student will receive notification by December from the school being considered under the Early-Action concept, but the student then has until May 1st to consider other options before making a commitment to the Early-Action college.
Colleges adopted the early admission practice years ago in an attempt to lock in top students. For the average student, it is hard to imagine that some applicants accepted to Harvard or Yale actually choose not to attend these illustrious institutions. But those schools are indeed rejected by some students. At Yale, nearly one in three accepted students choose to attend another college. Therefore, even these highly selective schools have to estimate how many accepted students will actually choose to attend. Since these school seek to have a full freshmen class, they must select a larger number of students than spots available to account for those who opt to go to school elsewhere.
By providing the Early-Decision or Early-Action options, colleges are able to determine the student’s specific interest in attending their respective institution. This eliminates some of the challenge of admitting students who may simply decide to attend another school.
For students, the process also has positive aspects. During the Early-Admission Process, students are essentially competing against an entrance threshold, not an applicant pool. Therefore, even the most selective academic institutions admit approximately 33% of their Early-Admission candidate pool as opposed to approximately 17% of the regular applicant pool. After all, the regular applicant pool competes against the group of applicants and the aforementioned criteria of filling out a freshmen call of students.
If a student truly has a first choice school, one that they prefer above all others, then Early-Admission is a concept these students should definitely consider. The simple mathematics indicate that they are far more likely to be accepted to the school of their choice utilizing this process than if they wait until the open admissions process.
At more select private colleges, the rates of acceptance are even more significant. At Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the acceptance rate for Early-Admission is 70%, a full 25 points above the acceptance rate of the general admission group.
On the flip side, if finances are of critical importance, the Early-Decision process should not be at the top of the applicants consideration. Without a doubt, Early-Decision prevents applicants from perusing financial offers and making a decision based on the best financial package available. Of course, all aspects of Early-Decision effectively remove the competitive options for students. In addition, students utilizing the early admit process must pull their applications to other schools and respond immediately to the accepting school.
The financial issue can be a real damper for applicants, especially after the Early-Admission process. For students, being accepted at the school of choice is immediately contrasted with the financial reality that the student may not be able to attend.
Because of that aspect, the concept of Early-Action has become a more positive option for students, especially those schools that allow for unrestricted Early- Action applications. Although students still apply early to certain colleges, they may also submit applications under regular decision and wait until spring to make up their minds. Students under this option essentially have until May 1st to finalize their selection.
However, three schools now offer single choice, Early-Action, where only one school may be utilized as an Early-Admission choice. Of course, the three schools currently offering this option, Stanford, Yale and Harvard, are three of the most selective colleges in the country.
Early-Action is growing in popularity. At Boston College, early admit candidates have increased from 2800 in 1996 to 5500 in 2004. BC does not offer traditional early admit, only the Early-Action option . Nearly 30% of the freshmen class at Boston College each year have gone through the Early-Action process.
These concepts may complicate the selection process for the average student. But for the individual with a clear idea of their first collegiate choice, Early-Admission is definitely something to consider, and with Early-Action now available as well, students should give careful weight to this aspect of the admissions process as well.