In a previous blog post, I wrote about early college application programs – the differences between early decision and early action, the pros and cons of each, and why it’s usually worth applying early. Now, I want to offer some advice to students who have applied early decision or early action, to address a common pitfall that I see among students.
There Is No Crystal Ball for College Admissions
After submitting one or more early applications, it can be very tempting to stop applying. Some students decide to not apply elsewhere because they are very optimistic about the application(s) they have already submitted. Others are reluctant to entertain the idea of going anywhere but their dream school, and are uninterested in applying to other colleges. Still others are tired of working on their applications, and they simply want to take a break. Whatever the reason, my advice to college hopefuls is to continue applying to other institutions until you are officially accepted by a school you want to attend.
The reason for this is the simple fact that the world of college admissions is unpredictable. Every year, the criteria for acceptance will vary. The only people who really know what a college is looking for in any given year are in that school’s admissions office, despite what some college counselors might have you believe. Given this, it is ill-advised for students to rely entirely on being accepted somewhere early.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
While I encourage students to maintain a positive outlook about the college application process, I cannot understate the importance of being prepared for an unfavorable decision. The worst thing a student can do is apply early to one or more schools and then lose momentum. Why? Because if they are not accepted early their later applications will be rushed, and the quality of those applications will suffer.
During the early admissions period, schools will ask three questions of the applications they receive:
- Is this someone we would accept no matter what the applicant pool looks like? If the answer to this is yes, based on a student’s credentials and profile, they will be accepted.
- Is this someone we would consider accepting during the regular admissions period, depending on what the regular pool is like this year? If the answer to this is yes, they will likely defer that application to the regular round, and applicants will not receive offers until April.
- Is this someone we would not accept any under any circumstances? If the answer to this is yes, the applicant will be denied acceptance right away.
Since it is impossible to be sure that your application will fall into category #1 above, it is best to assume you could fall into categories #2 or #3 instead. No matter how strong your application, and no matter how much you want to attend a particular school, the best approach is to keep your options open by continuing to apply during the regular admissions cycle.
Rather than taking a break this month, keep working on your applications. If you don’t, you may have to scramble to apply to the regular pool in January after learning in mid-December that your early applications did not lead to the result you had hoped for. This way, you can submit applications you feel good about and increase your chances of being accepted somewhere for the upcoming academic year.