College Applications: Should You Apply Early Action?

A friend of mine called me last week to ask whether her daughter should apply early action to Boston College.

For a lot of high school seniors, applying to a college early action is a great idea. But early action isn’t for everyone including my friend’s daughter Julia. I’ll explain why momentarily.

First of all, I want to emphasize that early action is not the same as early decision. With early decision, you apply to one school and if you’re accepted, you must attend even if the financial aid or merit award is inadequate. Because of this financial gamble, I’d suggest that early decision is only appropriate for rich kids who don’t have to worry about their parents writing fat checks.

In contrast, early action is egalitarian. With early action, you apply well ahead of regular decision deadlines just as you would for early decision but your college options aren’t limited. You can also apply to as many schools early action as you’d like.

Here are the other significant advantages of early action:

You’re finished sooner. The colleges that my son is applying to have early action deadlines on Nov. 15 and Dec. 1. Ben will be nearly done with his college applications well before Christmas, which is a huge plus.

Quicker admission verdicts. School notify students who apply to college through early action sooner. In fact, many students will get the admission news before the holidays. This gives families more time to explore their college options.

Early action isn’t binding. Students aren’t obligated to attend any school that accepts them through early action. And early action applicants don’t have to rush into a decision. They can wait until May 1 to make their deposits for the fall.

Early action can give applicants a slight advantage. Some school will slightly favor their admission early birds, but at other colleges the competition is tougher. I’d recommend contacting a school to find out. For Boston College, I found the information right on its website. At Boston College, students applying early action face a “bit more competition.”

So what, you are probably wondering, made me recommend to my friend’s daughter that she skip applying to Boston College early action?

Early action isn’t a good option for students who want to share their work from their first semester of senior year. When students choose early action, a college will only see their transcript through their junior year.

Julia is currently having a great semester and she wants to be sure Boston College sees those grades. She also is maintaining an “A” in an English class that she’s taking this semester at a local private university. In addition, she wants to try the ACT one more time before applying.

So here’s the bottom line: Early action is a wonderful choice for many students, but it’s not for everybody.

Further Reading:

The Secrets of Succeeding in College

Gaming the System: College Legacy Admissions

Why Teens Take AP Classes

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