Congratulations – three weeks ago you made it through the early application deadline relatively unscathed. Your early application essays were completed successfully thanks to our insider blog posts on how to tackle every top schools’ apps, your dream school was notified of your budding desire to attend, and you were awarded an eight-week break from the next impending deadlines.

For many students, this break can be truly nerve-racking, especially considering the daunting question on every applicant’s mind:

Should I begin writing my regular applications now? Or should wait to hear back from my early schools first?

To answer these questions, you first need to reflect on and characterize the strategy you used in the early round. There are two main strategies:

  • You applied to a top target that you are certain you will get into (and would want to attend), cutting your school list in half.
  • You applied to your top dream school (which was a reach), because applying early afforded you the best chance of acceptance possible.

If you used the first strategy and can objectively say—without a shadow of a doubt—that you will be accepted, then your work becomes a bit easier. You can now eliminate all the schools below your early school on your school list and just focus on the ones above (if you were strategic, this should leave you with 3-4 schools). After gaining your acceptance, you then can focus on these schools fully.

Because of the lack of pressure associated with strategy 1, you should aim to have just one or two additional applications completed by the time you get your results in mid-December (or more if you’re particularly motivated). Choose your top school and finish it first before moving on to any others. The outcome of this strategy is that you already have a top school on which to fall back and can thus focus your energy on the remaining few schools that truly excite you.

If you used the second strategy (most likely 90% of students reading this post), you face a different decision matrix. Your chance of being accepted is, well, more or less the early acceptance rate of the school. Of course, your high SAT score and stellar extracurriculars help, but for the top 15 schools it is pretty much impossible to say that you unequivocally will be accepted. It doesn’t help that the whole admissions process is becoming increasingly selective.

If you’re feeling burned out post-early round, it can be easy to decide to just wait for your results before starting new essays.

DON’T DO THIS! Here’s why waiting until you hear back is a fundamentally flawed idea:

  • The time crunch. Writing your early application probably took 1-2 weeks if you were quick. Writing the same quality essays for another 7 schools in that same time period to meet regular deadlines is extremely difficult. If you are not accepted, you will likely not finish your essays on time or will not have had enough time to adequately write them, decreasing your chances of acceptance in the regular round. Procrastinating will also definitely guarantee that you will NOT be enjoying this holiday season with your family.
  • The uncertainty factor. If you were rejected/deferred, you don’t have any indication of how you stack up. In short, you weren’t accepted, so you now have no idea what your lower bound is. You may have a current school list that includes HYPS, but that rejection from Cornell will force you to rethink that. Having not written any essays, you’ll be forced to generate new material for a whole host of different schools due to the uncertainty of where you stand. This also contributes to a heightened sense of stress.
  • The sadness effect. College rejections are unemotional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sting. If you are deferred/rejected from your dream school, this subconsciously will decrease your resolve and stamina in these crucial last few weeks. Attempting to then write upwards of 15 essays for a bunch of schools that were lower on your list than your dream school will then be emotionally draining and unfulfilling, substantially decreasing the essays’ quality and possibly losing you more acceptances. Thus, it’s best to get those essays out of the way before any impending sadness to ensure they are of the same quality as your first batch.

Trust us, you don’t want to make this mistake. You owe it to yourself since you’ve worked so hard in high school for the past 3 years – don’t compromise your chances at the very end!

Our advice? We highly recommend that you start writing at least 2-4 other apps before you hear back from the EA/ED round. Try to finish at least 1-2 target school apps and 1-2 reach school apps. Also keep in mind that the University of California deadline is at the end of November, so you’ll need to work on that too if you are applying to those schools.

While these next few weeks are definitely difficult, push through the remaining work through January 1st. Not only is it the best strategy to ensure maximum acceptances, but also it will keep you sane despite what happens in the early round. To all applicants, we continue to wish you the best of luck!