is applying in the twilight of the process right for you?
With all the hype about early admission programs in the media, some students and counselors are beginning to wonder if waiting until the regular admission deadlines will be too late. Our goal in this essay is to explain some of the fundamentals regarding early admission programs and to offer some suggestions to consider as you decide if applying early is right for you.
In college admission today, there are three main types of early admission programs: Early Decision, Early Action, and Restrictive Early Action. (Scroll to the bottom of this page to learn which program is offered at Boston College.)
Early Decision institutions typically limit students to applying to only one Early Decision program. Most also allow students to apply to Early Action institutions with the understanding that if they are admitted to the ED school, they will attend and withdraw their other college applications. Usually, the only way students would be released from their commitment is if the financial aid package is not sufficient for them to afford the cost of attendance.
One of the problems some students encounter is that financial aid packages are not always provided at the time of the early offer. Admitted students may withdraw all of their applications in January, but then learn in the spring that they are not able to afford the Early Decision institution. These students are then left in the precarious situation of having no institution to attend.
Early Action programs allow students to apply ahead of time, but do not require that students attend the university. Early Action applicants to Boston College are free to apply to other schools during the Regular Admission process, and therefore can make an informed decision by May 1st. Institutions have different rules on whether or not students may apply to more than one Early Action school, so it is always best to review each of your potential schools' policies.
Restrictive Early Action
Restrictive Early Action programs vary, but they generally give students the opportunity to learn of their admission early in their senior year of high school without binding them to the college or university to which they are admitted. Some REA program only allow students to apply early to only one school, while others allow early applications to other EA schools but not to ED schools. All REA programs allow students to apply regular admission or rolling admission to other institutions and give them until May 1st to decide where they will attend.
Some institutions inform their applicants that they have a slight advantage in the admission process if they apply early. If a student shows the interest by applying early, the institution may be inclined to reward that interest in the process. At other institutions like Boston College, it is actually a bit more competitive to be admitted in the early process. In short, know your institutions and how they view students who apply early.
Students who learn of their admission to an Early Decision school know in December where they will be going the following year. This can take a great deal of stress out of the process. Students admitted through an Early Action program can spend the first four months of the new year revisiting the school, investigating more opportunities that exist, and becoming comfortable with their upcoming decision. It can be a great way for students to focus more closely on their top choice schools.
Students who apply early do not have the chance to showcase a full semester of work from their senior year. If a student's application will grow stronger throughout the senior year due to a stellar performance in the classroom, enhanced test scores from the November or December testing date, or a variety of other factors, then applying early may not be the best option. Waiting until the application is at its most impressive stage is usually the way to go.
Students admitted to an Early Decision school cannot change their minds. We can't tell you how many conversations we've had with students who tell us that the spring of their senior year was instrumental in helping them decide which school was right for them. If you are admitted ED, you no longer have the luxury of using your senior year to determine if the school is the right fit for you.
Early programs were designed for top students in an applicant pool to hear early from their top choice schools in order to make informed decisions in the spring. They were not created with the intent that all applicants would use the option. Some students would be better served waiting until the regular admission process. As previously stated, we recommend that you be in contact with each of the schools to which you are applying to determine if applying early is right for you.
Because Early Action, Early Decision, and Restrictive Early Action policies vary from institution to institution, it is critical that you are fully aware of the rules when applying early to a school. If you can't find the information about early admission programs online, we recommend that you call each of the schools to which you will apply in order to learn the details behind each school's policy. To get you started, let us share some information about Boston College's early program.
Boston College offers an Early Action program for top students who wish to learn of their admission in December. Early Action candidates must submit all credentials by the postmark deadline of November 1. The Admission Committee will communicate decisions no later than December 25. Candidates for Early Action will be evaluated primarily on their high school record through the junior year. ACT results through the October administration and SAT results through the November administration will be considered for the Early Action program as long as the student designated Boston College as a score recipient prior to taking the exam(s).
Early Action is a non-binding program; therefore, students admitted to Boston College in December will have until May 1st, the Candidate’s Reply Date, to make their enrollment decisions.
Boston College does not permit students to apply under Early Action if they are applying to a binding Early Decision program at another college. Students are free to apply to other Early Action and Regular Decision programs.
Competitive candidates who are not admitted to Boston College under Early Action will be reconsidered during the Regular Decision evaluation process. Approximately 20% of candidates deferred at Early Action are admitted during the Regular Decision process. Decisions will be communicated in early April. Early Action candidates whose credentials are not competitive for admission to Boston College will be denied in December and may not reapply in January. This allows such candidates to move forward with the application process at colleges where they will be competitive for admission.