Recently on InsideHigherEd.com, an article reported that early applications are up at several institutions this year. This goes against the conversation started a few years ago where colleges were thought to be moving away from early applications, since applying early decision puts pressure on students to make a decision on attending an institution without knowing what their financial aid package would look like. Due to the uncertainty of the economy, many institutions thought early applications would be down, but that has not happened.
So what is the reason behind this trend? The article hints at a type of peer pressure where students perceive that it is easier to be admitted to a school the earlier you apply. So if all of your friends are applying earlier, why shouldn’t you? Some experts also say that more colleges are encouraging students to apply early. Is this a result of a college admission strategy schools are using to make sure they get their class? Maybe in some cases. But some schools are concerned about the impact that early decision plays on students in a lower socioeconomic class. In the past, we have written about applying ED and how to think about financial aid. Basically, it is a good idea to know what you are getting into and make the best decision for you and your family.
For some students applying early is a good choice. If they know what their dream school is and have a good idea how they can pay for it, then early decision is the way to go. For others, going to their dream school is important, but they know they need to consider the big picture (i.e. they want to make sure they get the best deal), then early action is a great choice. And still there are other students who just aren’t ready until December, January or even February to submit an application, regardless of their financial need. Is it fair for these students to be at a disadvantage just because they were not sure?
No matter when you apply to a college, you are not going to be admitted if you don’t meet the school’s profile. However, having the options on when to apply and what each “category” means may just be adding to the frenzy that is the college admission experience.