- Deciding when to apply: Early vs regular decision
- Filling out the college application: Common application walkthrough
- College application checklist
- Applying to the right number of colleges
- Receiving an admissions decision: Admit, deny, or waitlist
Sean Logan discusses when to apply to college and defines early decision (binding commitment to attend), early action (non-binding, with restrictive and non-restrictive options), and regular decision college applications. There's also rolling admissions, which offer fast decisions. Students should select the best option for them based on their readiness, preferences, and financial aid considerations.
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- I'm 12 years of age. I've been a gifted student since 2nd grade. Currently, I take all advanced classes, and take Algebra 1 and Physical Science in 7th grade. My Algebra 1 EOC will determine whether or not I graduate high school. I'm enrolled in the Galileo Program, and absolutely love it. My school is a college-prep school, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about what college I want to go to. I have a college I want to go to already. I'm planning on studying Psychological Science. I calculate and compare the cost from many different universities. I spend time thinking about my dorm room. I always think about my future. Is it bad that I spend this much time thinking about college? My whole life is kinda dedicated to actually making it. I'm scared that it may keep me from doing good in school, and in the things that will actually get me there.(7 votes)
- I'm 16 and I'm from India and I want to join MIT. So when should I start my application process?(4 votes)
- It's true that you'll actually write your applications during your senior year. But if you're targeting MIT - one of the most competitive schools in the world - you're going to want to start planning and preparing loooong before that. After all, the school is going to be looking at your ENTIRE high school transcript/experience, so you need to make sure you're making all the right moves as early as possible. This includes keeping your grades up (while taking challenging courses), preparing for the SAT/ACT, and getting involved in activities early so you can really ENGAGE in them over time.
Here are a few resources that will help you get started. Don't wait! Start using your time wisely (after school, on breaks, during the summer):
Hope that helps! GOOD LUCK!(9 votes)
- I have already applied to a couple of colleges/universities for the sake of practice but I am planning to take a gap year in another country where I'll be studying there literature, history as well as a couple science courses. When applying to colleges/universities again next year should I get recommendation letters from my high school teachers again?(4 votes)
- I am very good in co-curricular activities: I am good at sports, play musical instruments and also have been to science exhibitions at state and National levels. Does this affect my changes of admission in colleges(especially MIT) ?(2 votes)
- Hi there! It sounds like you're a very well-rounded student. And when you're applying to a TOUGH school like MIT, that can work in your favor. One of the biggest issues we see with students who want to go into STEM is that their entire high school profile is 100% STEM. They excel in Math and Science. They are members of Math and Science clubs. And that is all WONDERFUL and clearly proves a mastery of and a passion for the subjects. Buuut that is also what so many OTHER applicants are going to have in THEIR profiles, too! So it's very difficult out at a school like MIT when that's all you have to offer up.
The fact that you are winning science exhibitions AND you play sports AND you play a musical instrument... that gives you some variety in your profile. And if you present that effectively to the school - showing who YOU are as a unique, awesome student - that is going to help you at MIT for SURE.
Now, if you can, please tell me a bit more about your activities. Do you play sports on a school team? Do you play music in the school band? Or a band out of school? And like ahsoka12 said above, do you have any leadership roles in any of your activities? Also, how long have you been involved in these activities? And what grade are you in?
All of these things matter when it comes to admissions, so let me know! (Just reply below!) And then we can figure out the best and smartest game plan to use eeeeverything you have to your advantage :)
By the way, here is some helpful information (from a member of the admissions committee) on just what top schools are looking for in applicants. Hopefully this gives you some clarity on what YOU should be focusing on!
Jon Frank(4 votes)
- Is there an age limit on applying to college?(2 votes)
- There is a minimum age essentially. In order to apply, you need to have a high school degree or an equivalent, like a GED. You don’t have to apply when you’re 17-18. So long as you have a high school diploma, you can apply whenever you want.(2 votes)
- If you apply for Early Action without binding you should be able to apply to any college, and get back information earlier as well. So I'm wondering since I'm only a freshman and I'm interested in the Early Action and applications are due somewhere between junior year, is it a good time to start searching and getting my application together? As well as what tips for college could you give me.(2 votes)
- I am 13 do you think it is to early to start making a choice for what college I want to go to.(2 votes)
- In early decision he said it is binding but what happens if you don't go? Do they have a fine? Or is it just a "you can't come into to this school"?(1 vote)
- I've never heard of a fine, but at certain schools you might be blacklisted. That means that they'll keep a list of you and other people who broke their agreements so that they won't ever admit you again; some schools share these lists with each other so it can make it difficult to get in to similar schools too. However, if you apply ED and get in and they don't give you enough financial aid for you to afford to go, then you can normally get out of it while avoiding the blacklist.(3 votes)
- I'm currently a senior, and I know what college I want to go to, but my SAT/ACT score is not the score I want, and it doesn't meet the average test scores for the school, is it better to wait for the regular decision or apply for the early action? I am planning to retake my SAT on Nov 7 and improve my score. Thank you.(1 vote)
- That's a pretty tough call to make. Make sure that the school actively doesn't report their test scores first (check US News and the college's actual site to be certain). If they don't report it at all, apply early action because, odds are, you'll be wait-listed over an inadequate score rather than flat-out denied (unless it's an absolutely terrible score). Then, when you re-take the test, send in your better score to boost your chances.(2 votes)
- We're here with Sean Logan. Sean, one of the big decisions that students face is when to actually apply for college. Can you kind of walk me through how to think about that decision? - [Voiceover] Sure, there are basically three different types of applying that students will do. One type of it is in early programs. A second is rolling admission. And the third is just regular admission. - [Voiceover] Great, and what do each of those mean? What are the differences? - [Voiceover] In the early process, there's typically three different programs that students may want to take advantage of. There's early decision, restrictive early action, and there's also just regular early action. - [Voiceover] Great, and can you explain what each of those are? - [Voiceover] The nice thing is that they generally all use about the same time frame. Generally, the time frame is the application is due sometime in early November, typically November 1. You generally will find out the decision sometime in the middle of December usually around December 15th. Then there are differences between the different programs. Within early decision, that is considered a binding process. If you apply to the school by November 1st, and you're admitted by December 15th, the expectation is you're going to attend that school. With restrictive early action and early action, they are both programs that allow students to apply to them, be admitted, but then still make decisions on other schools. You're not obligated to attend. The difference between the two programs is restrictive early action, there are just a handful of schools in this category, but you can only apply to them, and other public schools early. You can apply to however many you want regular decision, but only that school and public institutions. Early action programs allow you to apply to as many other schools as you want to. There's no restrictions. - [Voiceover] Great! Let me make sure I understand. In early decision, if I apply there, and I get in, I'm committed, and I'm supposed to go. With both of the early action programs, I'm not committed. It's just a way to kind of figure out early if I'm in. The only difference between restrictive versus non-restrictive is the restrictive I'm not supposed to apply to other private schools early. Whereas, in the non-restrictive early, or the standard early action, I can apply to anywhere else early. - [Voiceover] Pretty much. Yup. - [Voiceover] Great! Makes a lot of sense. Sean, you mentioned rolling. Can you tell me a little bit more about how that works? - [Voiceover] Rolling programs are used mostly by sort of non-selective or selective schools. Generally, within say a four-week or five-week period, they would typically if you would get all your material in by a date, four weeks later they will typically have a decision for you. Again, that's good for the school in terms of them starting to create their class, and for you as a student, it may be certainly a school that you're interested in, but it allows you to get information earlier like, yes I'm admitted. I already can kind of put that in my yes category, and maybe tailor the rest of my list based off of that admission. - [Voiceover] Great. So it sounds like rolling is sort of a great way to get potentially an acceptance early on in the process. - [Voiceover] It is. - [Voiceover] And know you're going to college. Awesome! The final thing you mentioned was regular decision. I take it that's sort of the standard way that people have applied to college in the past. - [Voiceover] Right, and again, the time frame varies a little bit, but most regular decisions usually are sometime in January, that the application is due into February somewhere in there, and then generally you will find out by mid-March if you've been admitted or not. Again, the great majority of kids that apply to college will use a regular system. You may have heard, you hear a lot about the early processes at these really, really selective schools, but the great majority of kids actually use the regular decision process. - [Voiceover] Great. That actually kind of brings me to my next question which is who should be applying early versus rolling, versus regular? Let's actually start with early, and specifically early decision. Which students should be applying early decision? - [Voiceover] Since it's a binding decision you're making, you really have to do a good job of really doing your research, and doing your homework, and really knowing that that school that you're choosing is your top choice. Again, it's about making sure you go through the research process, maybe visiting, if not visiting, making sure you're on the web, and really doing your homework. Especially as a low income student, you also want to check all of these schools. Every school by law has a financial aid calculator on their website, and that can also help you figure out what your financial aid package may look like because obviously, you don't want to get into a binding situation if the financial aid ... you don't think that will work for you family. You also want to do your homework and make sure that the financial aid looks like it'll work for your family. If all of that lines up, and you know it's your first choice, then that's a great reason to go ahead and try your luck applying early. - [Voiceover] Why exactly would I do that rather than waiting for the regular decision? Will I have a better chance potentially? - [Voiceover] A lot of these schools in the early decision process take a higher percentage of kids. Again, it may be an opportunity just for you to say, "This is the school I want. "I want them to know right up front." If you get in, you're done by December 15th. You're not waiting until March, and you can sort of enjoy the rest of your senior year without worrying about the college piece. There is a bit of, in some areas, a strategic advantage to do something early. I will also say in the last three or four years, there still tends to be a lot of money left for students in the early process. As you get into the regular rounds, sometimes there's not quite as much financial aid left. In some ways, you may actually have an opportunity to get a little bit more money in an early process. - [Voiceover] Great. Let's actually move on to some of the other early options. You mentioned your restrictive early action, or early action. In general, given that they're not binding, so the school won't know if you're going there or not when they accept you. Who should be applying early action? - [Voiceover] Again, I think it's an opportunity for students on the student side to say, "Hey, these are schools that I know I'm interested in." If you could find out some information by December saying, "Yes, I'm admitted "to these two, but no I didn't get into these two", it might help you in terms of other schools you may want to apply to. Your early action school may be your very top choice school. Again, if you get in by December 15th, you may be thrilled and be done with the process. It also, for kids who are first generation or low income kids, where financial aid is a big issue, it also doesn't lock you in. You have the opportunity to get into that school, see what the package is, but then apply regular decision, and see maybe if you get other packages that are better from other schools. - [Voiceover] Great! What about rolling? I think we talked about this a little. But just to make sure that I'm clear, who should definitely be applying rolling admissions, or should at least be considering a rolling admission school? - [Voiceover] A lot of schools, again, that use the rolling process, not all, but a lot, it's an opportunity for you to get your information and application in early. They know you have some interest 'cause you've done it say in September, October, November. Again, there may be a little bit more money left. If you wait to the very end of the process, they may be running low on money for financial aid. So there may be an opportunity for you to really have some money available to you. The other things about all early programs, both rolling, and early action, early decision programs is they're not gonna get a chance to look at a lot of your senior year work. So you better be really happy with your freshmen, sophomore, and junior year work, and have all of your testing done that's necessary by those deadlines. 'Cause if you don't, then you may want to wait until you get all of that in place, and then apply regular decision. - [Voiceover] Okay, so it sounds like both early and rolling, it's really for students who feel good about their freshmen through junior year work. - [Voiceover] Yup. - [Voiceover] Who don't feel like they need for a semester senior year to sort of show an improvement. - [Voiceover] Correct. - [Voiceover] Let me make sure I get that down. What about regular decision? Who are the people who should definitely wait for regular decision, and put some of these earlier rolling options aside? - [Voiceover] Again, I think it's if there's in your research process, if you're not far along in it, you need a lot more time after November 1st to really do all your research, you're not gonna be ready to really make a good application to an early decision, or an early action, or a rolling school. You really need to have done your research, and know a little bit about that school to be able to sort of talk in essays, and all that sort of things. You need to have your work done to really be a good early applicant. If not, regular is a much better place for you to be in this process. Again, and in general, if you really want to compare financial aid packages across a wide variety of schools, applying regular gives you ... Again, there's no binding, there's no thing that's gonna be holding you down. Again, even though that may not happen in early action, you may not really find any schools that have early action programs that you're really excited about. It may just be worth waiting until regular decision as well. - [Voiceover] Great. Let me just make sure I've got it all clear. With early decision, I apply, it's binding. Whatever they give me I'm gonna go. Are there any circumstances where I could get out of that? - [Voiceover] There is a circumstance where, again, if it's for financial aid reasons. Say that you've did a calculator. It looked like you were gonna get a good package, but in actuality there were some things that happened, and the financial aid package will not work for your family. Schools will typically let you out of that decision, but generally then you're out of their pool as well. - [Voiceover] Those extenuating circumstances aside, I'm committed with an early decision application. - [Voiceover] Correct. - [Voiceover] And I get the answer early. - [Voiceover] Yup. - [Voiceover] And it may increase my chances of getting into a particular school a little bit. - [Voiceover] Potentially. - [Voiceover] Potentially. - [Voiceover] There's early action options where I'm not committed. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] But I do get the information early. - [Voiceover] Yup. - [Voiceover] And again for schools that kind of give financial aid, can run out of financial aid later on in the season. This might give you access to that financial aid earlier. - [Voiceover] Potentially. - [Voiceover] Potentially. Again, school by school, but potentially. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] Rollin admissions, they're kind of letting you in as you're applying four to five week turnaround. Again, the earlier you kind of get that in, you get the answer early, and you also may have access to additional financial aid. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] Potentially. Then, regular decision is for folks who want to compare several offers, or are maybe just a little farther behind in their process and want to make sure that they kind of have everything set before they apply. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] Great! Thank you so much, Sean.