If you have a firm, well-researched answer to this question, you are likely considering applying through an early admissions process.
Yesterday, I discussed early admissions on SiriusXM radio with my colleague Eileen Feikens, Director of College Counseling at Dwight-Englewood School. This partnership is critical because every voice, from dean and counselor to parent, student, and mentor, will have a different perspective on early admissions. Through discussion, we can learn from each other and distill key considerations for your approach to early programs.
The decision to apply early should be the culmination of a thoughtful and well-researched journey. The first step in your college admissions process is self-reflection, the 5Is. It is never too early to look inwards and critically consider your interests, strengths, and aspirations. A crucial next step is evaluating the colleges on your list through the 4Cs to better understand the attributes of potential university communities.
Following reflection and research, you are well equipped to focus on fit. Does your match with one campus stand out over others? What academic programs excite you and in which communities did you feel most comfortable during your campus visits? Focus on the alignment or connections between your self-reflection, the 5Is, and the characteristics of the schools on the list, the 4Cs. Allow this to inform your concept of fit. Discuss your conclusions with your family, mentors, teachers, and guidance counselor.
If you decide that it makes sense for you to apply early to one or more of the schools on your college list, investigate the range of early admissions plans available. You will learn about Rolling Admissions Plans, Early Action, Early Decision, Early Decision II Plans, among others. There are also key differences between each plan, including timing, the binding nature of the contract, and restrictive application policies. Understand how each plan works and how policy differences will affect your application process overall. Additionally, investigate how financial aid may differ in some early and regular decision plans.
As you move forward with your early admissions application(s), keep the following in mind:
• Be cognizant of your timing. Make sure you are aware of deadlines and work with your counselors to make sure your materials are ready to go. Take time now to edit and review your Common Application and school specific essays.
• Prepare your Regular Decision applications to ensure a smooth semester and happy winter break regardless of the outcome of your early admissions application(s).
• And finally, remember that applying early can be a great option if it reflects thought, research, and passion.
Continue to check Page 217 for a discussion specific to Early Decision, the early admissions plan available to prospective Penn students.