Does submitting your application ahead of the deadline improve your chances?
Admissions offices work fast and furiously. Often the entrance guidelines (all those numbers that represent who will get in and who won't) aren't even established until well into the fall semester.
In addition, admissions counselors who make the decisions (if a machine isn’t making them) aren’t off the road from recruiting at high schools until the middle to the end of October – sometimes even into the first week of November. With first-year application deadlines ranging from November 1 to December 15, that doesn’t give a limited admissions staff much time to review all the applications they have received – in many cases into the 10s of thousands.
What is astonishing to me this cycle is how quickly these decisions are being generated this year. I am advising students who literally submitted their applications the day before (or the day of) the deadline this fall and who received their decisions within a week. In some cases the letters and emails announcing the decisions are poorly written, missing information that is promised (such as links), and just downright cold and cruel – unforgivably sloppy, no matter if it's good news or bad.
This tells me that these institutions are either 1) mechanizing all their application decisions (no counselors see the actual files) or 2) they aren’t looking at any of the information that accompanies the application.
So clearly, it doesn’t matter if you get your application in earlier. The fact is, they want to be able to tell their administration that their numbers look great this year, and be able to predict student life and academic needs for the next year, which is why they push for the apps to be in so early. But most institutions will continue to accept students on a “space available basis” long after their published deadlines.
However, my advise, as always, is this: Don’t try to game the system. If they publish a deadline, try to stick to it or get your application in before it is due – particularly for a college you really, really want to get into.
Regarding the FAFSA deadlines? Now THAT matters. Get your PINs now, and submit your FAFSA the beginning of January, using your estimated taxes to complete it (you can change that info later when you have the real figures.) That is a pipeline that you want to be in from the word “Go.”