Applying early: the differences between early action and decision, how students can decide if it’s right for them

Maria Maraldo '21, Staff Writer

For most students, senior year is the time to start applying to college. Students put together a list of schools they wish to apply to, with some standing out more than others. They then have to make a decision: do they apply early to the school of their dreams or not? 

Many colleges allow students to submit their applications in the fall before the usual winter deadline. This process is called Early Action or Early Decision, according to South counselor Aja Perales. While early to dream colleges has its benefits, she said, students still need to be careful. 

“There’s definitely an advantage,” Perales said. “If a college is offering early action, that’s their preferred way to plan and start the admittance process. Early decision is a little different. It’s one of those things where you really have to have a good understanding of where you want to go and what you want to do, because you’re required to go there. It’s just trickier—  you want to make sure that you’re really understanding what the terms are and what that means for any kind of financial scholarship.” 

Mady Grant ’20 said she applied early decision to the University of Chicago and decided to do so because she believes it displays initiative on behalf of the student. 

“Sometimes, (early decision) helps your chance of being accepted into wherever you’re applying early because it shows the admissions officers that you took the time to go out of your way to apply early,” Grant said. “It shows that you are really interested in going to that specific school and that you’re serious about your decision to apply there.”

According to Grant, there are advantages and disadvantages to applying early decision, and a major disadvantage could be uncertainty.

“For the people that aren’t entirely sure where they want to go, there is definitely the drawback of it being a binding process— if you apply to that college, you have to go there,” Grant said. “If you think you’re going to have second thoughts, it might not be a good idea. It is very binding.”

Josie Monahan ’20 said she believes the advantages outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to applying early.

“The pros of applying early are definitely that you get maximum scholarship consideration and an earlier notice of your acceptance,” Monahan said. “The best thing about it for me was that I got to get it out of the way before the end of the first quarter. Now, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. The only drawback is that it can make your first few months of senior year stressful if you’re rushing to fit in a lot of early applications.”

Senior year is very busy overall, and students can use the opportunity to apply early as a tool to reduce stress through the rest of the school year, according to Monahan.

 “Applying early was definitely the right choice for me because now I’m able to focus on important things besides college applications, like just enjoying senior year,” Monahan said. “Things get crazy as the school year goes on, so knowing that I was able to have my applications done early will be a big help.”