Since mid-December, thousands of high school students have received the decisions on their early applications. The NY Times runs an updated tally on the early application numbers at some of the most competitive colleges in the country.
So what do these numbers mean? Well, high school students who are still waiting to hear their admission fate may be in for a rough spring. Below are some insights on the early application process.
1. ED decisions leave less seats. Since the acceptance rates for most binding early decision application programs is higher than the regular decision rates, it will be extremely difficult to be admitted in the regular round. For some binding early decision programs, a little less than half the class has been set in stone. As the NY Times article notes, 47% of the freshmen class at the University of Pennsylvania is already set. At Dartmouth, 42% is nailed down.
2. More Admitted under Early Action. Even though early action is non-binding and there is no guarantee for the colleges that they student will enroll, colleges will still admit more students in the early action round. Most colleges will say that this is because their early action pool is often more a competitive group of students, and as a former admissions officer, I can tell you that this is mostly true. However, I can understand how since the acceptance rates between early programs and regular decision programs are so different, it is hard to imagine that the applicants in an EA round are that much better than students applying in the RD round. For example, as noted in the NY Times article, Harvard admitted 18% of its early applicants and the overall acceptance rate is just 6%. Princenton had similar numbers while offering admission to 21% of those who applied early and having an 8% over acceptance rate. Reality is that the more students that are admitted under an early action program, the less room their is for students in the regular decision round.
3. To Defer or Not to Defer. Colleges often send out mixed messages regarding deferrals. Some schools will defer thousands of applicants, just to make sure they are building the best class. This often times leads to the majority of those students receiving rejection letters in the regular decision round. Other schools are careful with their deferrals and only defer students who they think have a shot at the regular decision round. If you find that you have been deferred, be sure to read our post, “So You’ve Been Deferred, Now What?” for some tips, however if a college has deferred a large number of students, there may not be much you can do.
4. Revisit Your List? Hopefully you have had a balanced list from the beginning of your college application process, but if some of the decisions you have received over the last few weeks have surprised you, you may want to reconsider your college list. Revisit some of those safety schools you put aside in the beginning. See if you need to give yourself a little more breathing room in order to have more options in April.
5. Remember to breathe. This can be a very stressful time. Remember to discuss your options with your parents or someone else you trust. Remember that where you go to college is not going to determine the course of the rest of your life. It is just one small stop on a long road. The path that your life will take will be determined by how you take advantage of the opportunities before you.