Applying for college can be a stressful process, and it takes dedication to finish the application. While it may be easier to wait and apply in February, there is another option that will result in students having more time to think about one of the biggest decisions of their lives. This option is early action.
To be clear, early action is not the same as early decision. Early decision is a binding process, whereas early action is not binding.
“The main distinction between early action and early decision is that early decision is binding, which means you can only apply to that school, and if you are accepted, you must attend that school,” said counselor Ms. Enrico. “This is especially suited for students who know exactly where they want to go, they are sure that they want to go there, and they’ve known for years. It does give you a better chance at getting in, but you have to be okay with only applying to that one school. Early action is suited for most students who want to apply to multiple schools and they want a slightly better chance at getting in. They will also know if they are admitted earlier, which takes the stress off of seniors who aren’t sure where they want to go.”
Most early action applications are due at the beginning of November, about four months before regular applications are due, which is the most significant difference between early action and regular applications. This means that the applicant also gets the college’s admission decision around December or January instead of March. Because applicants find out their admission status months before they need to make a decision, they have more time to consider their options and make an educated decision about where they would like to go.
“The multiple decision plans for colleges, while confusing, are important because they allow you to do early decision for multiple schools, but they are only available for some colleges,” said senior Bianca Campagnari. “If you’re prepared to do early action, you can just sit down at a coffee shop and spend a few hours writing your essays. You can definitely do it in a month if you really work on it. But, the quality of the application is more important than when you apply in most cases.”
In addition to receiving results early, the applicants have time after they find out if they are admitted to the school of their choice to apply to a different school. For instance, if an applicant was denied from all of the schools they applied to with the early action application, they have enough time to apply to other colleges for the regular application date. This essentially gives the applicants a second chance to get into a college of their choice.
“Apply early action because it shows you truly care about the school and it gives you a much higher chance of getting in,” said former San Marcos student Arin Pieramici who applied with early action.
On the downside, the application is due sooner, which means students should begin the process now in order to have time to finish before November first. While having to submit the application early can take some extra work, the benefits make up for any stress the early application date brings. Another downside is that students who do early action may not be considered for all of the scholarships that are available in February. However, students can always apply for scholarships after they submit their main application, and there are some scholarship applications that are available in November.
While early action does allow students to finish their applications early, the early date can be intimidating and force students to decrease the quality of their application. The most effective way to take advantage of the early action is to use it if you have time to complete the application with the same standard of quality as you could in February. Otherwise, early action may not be the best option for you, and you should take your time finishing your college applications.