Applying early improves odds of getting in, but reduces your financial aid packages.
Applying early admission improves your chances of getting admitted to highly selective colleges IF you have a competitive application. That means that your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are stellar, and you have something interesting or unique to bring to the freshman class (a project!). This year, top colleges saw a significant increase in early applications (Early Decision and Early Action), and they admitted more students from this pool than regular admissions.
Students who can afford to apply Early Decision because their parents don’t need to consider financial aid, have a big advantage over students who need to compare financial aid packages from several colleges. Almost 30% of students who applied Early Decision (this is binding, which means you have to attend) last year have family incomes of more than $250,000 per year, compared to just 16% of students with families who make less than $50,000. This significantly changes the demographics of the incoming class.
Most high school seniors don’t have the organizational skills to select all of their colleges, complete the applications, write the essays, request letters of recommendation, take the SAT/ACT, and put together portfolios (for art/music) by October or November of the senior year. These students who do apply early are most likely working with a private college advisor who organizes and helps them meet these early deadlines. Again, this system caters to the wealthy. Regular admissions deadlines are usually around December-January (November-December for public colleges) for selective colleges.
If you’re applying to colleges this fall, select a few Early Action colleges and complete the applications and essays during the summer. Request letters of recommendation during the first week of school – before your fellow students ask – and you’ll be more likely to get those applications completed and improve your odds of getting in! Share this with low-income students so it evens the playing field. Remember, applying Early Action is not binding so you can wait to compare financial aid packages before making your decision. If you need a substantial financial aid package, don’t apply Early Decision.