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Students Ask, College Counselors Answer

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This week's question from Daniel Meany, Rutland, VT asks:

Early, rolling, regular: When should you apply?

ED vs Regular vs Rolling

Susan Marrs | Director of College Counseling
Answer: It depends on the plan(s) offered by the college, but generally speaking: Early Decision is the best choice for kids who have fallen in love with a school, who are happy with their test scores and whose grades put them at least in the ballpark. Regular Decision is the best choice for kids who don't have a clear first choice. Rolling Decision, especially early in the cycle (late August-mid October), is a great choice for kids who'd like to hear as soon as possible, sometimes as quickly as a few weeks after submitting the application.

Apply Early If Your Heart is Set on a School

Kiersten Murphy | Director
Deadlines vary from college to college and you will need to make a game plan that suits your best interests. If you heart is set on a particular college that offers Early Decision (binding), then choosing to select this deadline makes a great deal of sense. You will know a college’s answer mid-December and then you can rest easy while your friends are still completing applications. Other colleges offer Early Action (non-binding), which is a fantastic way to get a decision early, and not have to commit until May 1st. Most ED and EA deadlines have past at this point in the season, so focusing on Regular Decision deadlines or Rolling will be the best way to go.

Are you the one?: Applying strategically to college

Rebecca Joseph | Executive Director & Founder
Applying to college is like dating. If a student wants to play the field and have several choices, then applying regular decision (not binding) makes sense. Students who do not need to rely on their senior fall grades or late fall test scores can also apply rolling (not binding) or early action (not binding) and receive admissions decisions within a few weeks. Then for the students who fall in love and know that one college is the one, Early Decision (binding) makes sense. Each option, except ED, is best for students who need to weigh different financial aid offers.

Before applying early, do your homework

Kristen Tabun | Director of College Guidance
While there are benefits to each decision plan, rolling admission works out well for most students, provided they can get their applications completed early in the season. Admission tends to get more selective as time goes on because there are fewer seats left. For students who have identified colleges they are more interested in, applying Early Action (non-binding) can also help them get some early feedback. Early Decision, of course, should be explored only after students have done careful research and visits, and have selected their top choice.

Choose Your College Admission Plan Wisely

Marilyn Emerson | Founder
In addition to where, students must decide how to apply. Not all schools offer all options. When rolling admissions is offered, it is almost always best to apply early. Early Action applications are considered before regular decision applications; this can work to the student’s advantage. While Early Decision sometimes increases the chance of acceptance, it is binding; students should only apply if they can say, without hesitation, that the school is their first choice and that they would be very excited to attend. If students want to compare financial aid packages, they should not apply early decision.

Early Applications Are Best—But You Don’t Have to Commit

Bill Pruden | Head of Upper School, College Counselor
When to apply is a tough question. Early decision is best if a student is firm in their choice and financial concerns are not an issue. But if there is any uncertainty then regular decision, early action, or rolling are all appropriate options. Indeed, unless a strong senior performance might turn the tide, the earlier one can apply the better. Such an approach garners valuable timely feedback about how the application is being viewed in this particular cycle. Too, there is nothing like having a “home” even if it is not the top choice. In general, early is better.

Early Bird, Rolling Along, and Standard Bearer--They All Work

Diana Hanson | Independent College Consultant
The various (and growing number of) admissions options can become confusing. Each has its place within your college strategy. If you have a clear first choice college, applying Early Decision (ED) can be a boon, since many colleges accept a higher percentage of ED students. Remember though that if you apply ED, you are contracting to go to that college, should they accept you. The other type of early plan, Early Action (EA) is not binding--and you can apply EA to multiple colleges. If, however, you need your first semester senior grades to help boost your GPA, you may choose not to apply early, but rather regular decision, since these due dates are generally after your mid term grades have been released. Rolling admissions means that a college makes admissions decisions as they receive applications, and so you could hear back as early as 4-6 weeks from the time you apply, and isn't it nice to have an acceptance or two under your belt by the time you're filing your last applications?

Early plans are a great way to move the work from your computer to ours

Jacqueline Murphy | Director of Admissions
Do what is best for you! Deadlines motivate and one real benefit of early action or rolling plans is the admission office gets to spread out the whole process of evaluating candidates. No small task. We can take more time with your application. So, if you believe your current academic record is a good reflection of what you can do, why wait? Submit the application sooner -the relief will be great! Of course, if we are talking early decision that is another story all together.

The Best Deadline for You is This One

John Carpenter | Founder
What an impossible question to answer! Ok, nothing's really impossible, so let's give it a shot: the deadline that is best depends on the individual student. If you love one school more than life itself, are competitive with grades and scores, and have any extra significant factor, then early is best. If you want to use fall semester to shore up your grades, take an extra test or two, make a few visits or take some time to figure things out, then regular decision is the best option. Rolling just means that applications will be received until the places are filled, and that varies from state to state and school to school, too; in this case, earlier is usually better. So, which is best for you? That all depends on where you are in the process. Timing is important, so choose the deadline that fits you.

The early bird catches the worm

Shelly Levine | Certified Educational Planner
There are many more available spaces during the early months of the application cycle. Therefore, if a college has a rolling or early/priority deadline, it is best to take advantage of that opportunity. The one exception might be for students who have borderline academic records and a very recent upward trend. Those students might need more time to demonstrate their strengths and applying during the regular round might give them that opportunity. Check with the individual college to see if they defer early applications to the regular pool, or do they just admit or deny during the early cycle.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm… The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese

John Frahlich | Counseling Department Chair
There are advantages to applying early, but don’t confuse Early Decision with other options. Carefully research the appropriateness of applying E.D. with your counselor. Only choose this for one college that you’re committed to attend if admitted. Other options such as “Early Action” have similar benefits to E.D. without the commitment. Generally speaking, it is best to apply to colleges early. Once seats begin to fill, the selectivity level can increase. If you develop late interest in a college, don’t be afraid to apply however. Some colleges not filling seats still provide late applicants with attractive aid packages.

The early bird often gets the worm

Craig Meister | President
The more time in his first three years of high school a student devotes to researching colleges, visiting campuses, and evaluating his preferences and goals, the more likely he will be able to apply to colleges on his list via the admissions plan that will be most advantageous. Not all schools offer rolling admission, but those that do should definitely be applied to in this manner as soon as their applications become available. Alternatively, early plans are great options too; however, never apply early decision unless fully committed to attending a college, as this plan is binding. Bottom line: those ready to apply near the beginning of their senior years generally earn more acceptance letters.

Three Different Ways to Apply-- Which is Best for You?

Janet Rosier | Independent College Admissions Consultant
Early Decision is binding--actually a contract that you sign where you agree to attend if you are accepted. You can only apply ED to one college. If you are very sure of your first choice college, if you fit the profile of admitted students and if you do not need to compare financial aid offers, ED may be right for you. If a college offers Early Action-- a non-binding early program where the student applies early and hears back early but still has until May 1 to decide- that may be a great way to go. You may receive good news and either be finished with the process, or more focused on where else to apply once you have an acceptance under your belt. If a college offers Rolling decision, get it in and get it in early! Rolling means that the college will evaluate applications as they receive them. Some colleges fill up early- especially state universities. Regular Decision gives you more time to decide, fill out and send in your applications. It is easy to be made to feel that you must apply early. It is a good choice for some students, but not for all students. Take a step back and try and evaluate your own situation so you do what is in your best interest.

Use the earliest deadlines that work for you (and do not bind you to a decision you’re not ready to make)

Ruth Vedvik | Principal
I encourage all students to “get it together” and get their applications in to early action plans. This means that you’ll receive notification earlier than most students. It is non-binding so you don’t have to make a non-refundable financial commitment prior to May 1 if you don’t want to do so. A few schools offer early estimated financial aid packages, but most will not provide financial aid packages until late February after you file the FAFSA. Of course, the top Brand schools often have precipice admission which means you apply by their deadline (and they vary), but they don’t notify anyone until April 1. Many of those schools do “leak” advance notice of admission, but that commonly doesn’t happen until mid-March. So, if you have precipice admission deadline schools in your top choices you’ll just have to be patient. BUT, do your advance work, get to know the schools and visit if you can so you’re ready to make a decision once you’re in and get funded (financial aid). You will have to accept or decline your admission offer by May 1 so you don’t have much time to run around the country visiting campuses!

When do you want to know where you're going to college?

Esther Walling | College Counselor
For the student who is absolutely sure of their choice; has visited the college, has a relationship with admissions and has done everything they can possibly think of to assure that they have a more than strong chance of getting in; early action is a really good choice and they will know sooner. For those who are still searching; regular admission is probably best and March is a good month to settle into their decision, especially if financial aid is an issue. Rolling admission shouldn't be a back up for those who have real trouble making up their minds, get waitlisted at their favorite, or simply succumb to procrastination. It can back fire if the student applies really late. In any event students should make sure they have done what they need to do to make sure they are admitted somewhere; especially meeting all required deadlines.


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