Consider your application strategy
I received a call the other day from a mom wondering what she and her son, who will be senior in September, should be doing at this point of the summer. The one thing I suggested is that she and her son sit down and start to think about his lists of colleges he will be applying to and consider his application strategy. The New York Times recently released a great list of 2012 admissions statistics (http://bit.ly/NaLn3l), which laid out the number of applicants and the percentage accepted under their regular and early plans. For those of you who may not know there are several options to consider when applying to college. The options are: Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), Regular Decision, and Rolling Admissions, each serve a purpose and should be considered wisely. The National Association of College Admissions Counselors has put together a nice document that explains each plan, http://bit.ly/MLGB2f, two of these options merit further discussion.
Over the past several years the number of students applying ED has increased. Looking at the numbers colleges do seem to like students more who apply ED and for good reason, it is a binding agreement between the student and the school so it is money in the bank. The student agrees if accepted they will withdraw all other applications and attend the ED school. When considering ED a family should be prepared to pay the tuition regardless of the financial aid package they receive. Decisions are mailed out by the end of November/early December, which is before aid packages are offered. If by chance a family cannot afford the tuition after they receive their financial aid award letter it puts the student in a very difficult situation. Often schools will let a student out of the ED agreement but it will most likely notify you closer to the end of the school year and at that time the student would need to start the application process all over again. ED is a great option if a student fits the schools profile and it is their clear #1 choice and tuition is not a concern. If a student is not sure in any way, wants to keep their options open, or are unsure if finances this is not a good choice.
EA is a great option if a school offers it, and as a result the number of students applying under this plan has risen as well. Like ED, a student will receive notification by the end of November/ early December. The highlight is that this plan is not binding so students can keep their options open and wait and compare all financial aid packages. Colleges do like to accept EA candidates, as they tend to be motivated and on the ball and have demonstrated interest early on in the process. Choosing the right school to attend can be difficult and having a couple of more months to decide can make all the difference in the world. The down side of this plan is that a student needs to be organized and ready to have their application and essay ready to be sent out by early to mid November. Also, schools will be making decisions based on grades earned over the first three years of high school. Students hoping their senior years grades will help their GPA should consider the Regular Decision option.
Using the remainder of the summer to really look at the list of schools you will be applying to and working out an applications strategy will be time well spent.