What Are the Benefits of Applying Early to College?
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- How Admissions Statistics Can Be Misleading
- Consider the Legacy Students
- The Factor of the Early Decision ‘Yield’
In this article, we’ll be talking about the benefits of applying early. Many students applying to college are curious about how much of an advantage they can really gain from applying Early Decision (ED), Single Choice Early Action (SEA), or Restricted Early Action (REA).
How Admissions Statistics Can Be Misleading
You may have seen early admissions statistics before. If you look at the raw data without any context, it often appears that there’s a huge advantage to applying during the early route versus the regular route. That can be true, especially at private, selective colleges like NYU or Barnard. This also applies at less selective colleges like Reed College, Bryant University, or TCU. And of course applying early is also advantageous at the Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Penn.
However, part of what you’re seeing when you look at early admissions data is a statistical mirage. Early acceptance rates are much higher on paper, but it’s important to note that the applicant pool during the early round is different from the applicant pool during the regular round. There is a better chance of admission in the early round, from a mathematical perspective, but the early applicant pool tends to have stronger applications on average, and there are fewer “throwaway applications.”
“Throwaway applications” refer to students who are well outside the overall application profile for a college. Maybe they took a chance and decided to apply to a school like Harvard, Cornell, or Carnegie Mellon, but they aren’t likely to be accepted. Some schools, particularly selective liberal arts colleges, will advertise in international markets to reach students who otherwise wouldn’t have applied. The more throwaway applications a school receives, the lower acceptance rate they can claim. Since school rankings are affected by their acceptance rates, colleges will do whatever they can to be more selective. These applications tend to come in during the regular decision round, making the early round acceptance rate higher.
Consider the Legacy Students
Another factor affecting the candidate pool during the early round is legacy students. Students who have a relative who attended the college, or one who currently works there, are more likely to get in, as are recruited student athletes. These applicants are more confident in their likelihood of acceptance, so the majority of them tend to apply during the early rounds.
The overall takeaway from this information is that while there are benefits to applying early, the benefits aren’t as impressive as the raw statistics imply. While it may appear on paper that you can double, triple, or quadruple your chances of admission by applying early at a selective university, for the schools themselves the early round is really all about yield.
The Factor of the Early Decision ‘Yield’
What a college is trying to do with its early applications is to boost its yield, which is the proportion of accepted students that end up enrolling. When a school offers early admission, it’s trying to maximize its yield rate.
With that in mind, if you apply Early Decision, you actually will get a pretty meaningful boost in your chances of admission, because ED is binding. If you’re accepted to a school on an Early Decision application, you have to enroll there, regardless of other acceptions you may receive. Early Action, on the other hand, doesn’t give you as much of a boost.
If you complete your application early, it is certainly an indication to the college that you have a deeper interest than a regular-round candidate. But the impact on your chance of admission is, overall, a lot smaller than statistics indicate, and it varies from school to school.