Are you up against a deadline and wondering if you really need to apply early or not for college? Maybe you’re curious if applying early can hurt your application chances or help them. In this blog, we’re talking about if you should submit your application for early action or decision.
You may have heard from someone that applying early greatly increases your chances of admission. There is some truth to the fact that admission rates are higher for those who apply early. For example, applicants for Harvard may have a 7-8% chance at early admission, as opposed to a 3% chance for regular admission. These statistics may lead you to believe that you have a greater probability of admission if you apply early. However, these numbers don’t tell the complete truth. The rate of admission is not the same as your personal probability of admission.
Who Should NOT Apply Early
People Who Have Terrible Essays
People should not apply early if they have terrible essays. If you have not put the amount of time you should have into your early application essays and you know they don’t reflect your best self, the you should be wary of submitting early. If you are considering applying to especially competitive schools, don’t apply early if you haven’t written the best essay you can. However, if you’re applying to large state schools or safety schools you can go ahead and apply if you need the peace of mind. Don’t worry too much about those safety schools. Remember your probability of getting in is most heightened when you have a strong application. Your priority should be making your application as incredible as possible.
If Your Grades are on an Upward Trend
Another reason to wait to apply is your grades. If your grades are on an upward trend, you may want to wait for regular admissions. You can send in a new transcript later if you get deferred, but that means you have to make it to deferred status. Your first chance is probably your best chance of getting in. It will be harder to make it out of the deferred pile than if you take the extra time to make sure your application is at its best.
If Your Classes are More Challenging Senior Year
If your classes are far more challenging senior year than they were in previous years, you may want to hold off on applying early. Your application may be stronger if you wait and prove you can handle a rigorous course load. Especially if you had to cut back on difficult classes for whatever reason during the pandemic, waiting for regular deadlines could be your best bet.
If You’re Developing a Wow Factor
Having a wow factor can be really important if you’re applying to top 10 schools. If you’re looking at lower-ranked or state schools, you don’t have to worry about this as much. If you’re applying to a top school, then a wow factor may be the thumb on the scale that tips the balance in your favor. While you’re developing your wow factor, waiting a few months may help!
If You’re Retaking the SAT/ACT
A great test score will improve your chances of getting in somewhere. If you are planning to retake the SAT or ACT, then you should wait to submit your application. Even though schools are test-optional, having an excellent test score will help you.
Rate vs Probability of Admission
The rate of admission is not the same as the probability of admission for any one given student. The numbers these schools are throwing out are not the whole story. In fact, when a school says it’s rate of acceptance for early applicants is twice the number for regular applicants, there may not be any difference in probability. There are three main reasons why this is the case.
Many Great Students Get Admitted During REA/ED
Let’s say a student has near perfect GPA and is ranked at the top of their class. They have phenomenal activities and a stand out application. That candidate is more likely to get in anywhere. Many of these students apply early so they can get an acceptance sooner and don’t have to apply to as many schools. Because of this, the regular pool doesn’t have as many strong applicants.
A second reason why the rate of acceptance doesn’t show the whole picture is legacy admits. A lot of the time, top schools like Penn and Harvard will tell alumni they have to apply early in order to get in as a legacy. This means there are more legacies in the early applicant pool. Legacy students can be admitted at a rate that is ten times that of the regular decision rate. If you’re applying early because you think your chances are greater, if you take the legacy students into account, then your chances of admission might not be different from the regular pool at all.
A Bigger Pool Doesn’t Always Mean More Competition
Remember that everyone who gets rejected from the first round of early applications will turn around and apply to many more schools. Even though regular admissions pools are bigger, they are often flooded by weaker candidates. Just because the application numbers go up doesn’t mean the competition is at the same level. Students who know they don’t have a great chance to get accepted may still apply to several stretch schools.
We hope this article helps explain that early action isn’t necessarily the best course of action for everyone. The more competitive a school is, the less advantage there is for early action. Early decision applications may have an advantage because schools know they can get a higher yield from you. This is especially true for schools in the 15th to 50th rank.
Early vs Regular Admissions Class of 2025
|School||Accepted Overall||Applied Overall||Percent Admitted||Accepted Early||Applied Early||% Admit Early||Accepted Regular||Applied Regular||% Admit Regular|
|Princeton (REA most yrs)||1,498||37,601||4.0%||-||-||-||1,498||37,601||4.0%|