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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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What Should You Do After Applying Early? Here’s How to Approach Your Post-Early Application Strategy

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Congratulations! You got your early decision college application signed, sealed, and delivered right on time! All those late nights of test prep, college essays, and application editing are behind you, at least for now.


Many CollegeVine students who apply early decision come to us wondering, what now? There are eight long weeks before you hear back about your early decision hopes, and they can be truly nerve-racking. While many students are tempted to sit back and wait for early results, many others wonder if they should begin regular applications now, just in case. In this post, we answer the question—should I wait to hear back from my early decision application, or should I start other applications now?


To What Type of School Did You Apply Early?


The major determining factor in whether or not you start other applications boils down to what strategy you employed when applying early decision. There are two mainstream strategies that account for the majority of early decision applications and in order to consider them, you’ll need to know how we break down a college list.


Typically, a college list can be broken down into safety, target, and reach schools. Safety schools are ones that you’re next to certain you will get into. Target schools are ones that you are well-qualified for acceptance. Reach schools are any ultra selective schools, or schools at which your achievements place you at the bottom 25% of accepted students. To learn more about classifying your college list, don’t miss our post The College List, Decoded: Safety, Target, and Reach Schools.


To decide how you approach your other applications, you’ll need to decide what type of school you applied early decision to. Generally, students either apply early decision to a top target school or to a reach school.


If You Applied Early Decision to a Target School


If it was a target school that you’d love to attend and which you’re relatively certain that you’ll get into, (because by applying early you have increased you already solid odds of acceptance) you don’t need to spend too much time worrying about other applications. In fact, you might consider just working on three other applications, including one safety, one target, and one reach school. This way, if by some long shot you don’t get into your early decision school, you aren’t left completely up the creek without a paddle.


If You Applied Early Decision to a Reach School


If, on the other hand, you applied to a reach school (which includes any ultra selective school, no matter how qualified you are) you should continue to work on all the applications on your college list. This should be about six or seven schools, which can sound a little overwhelming, but it can be helpful to remember you will probably only apply to college once in your life. Do your best job now, cover all your bases, and then be grateful when the acceptances roll in.

Why Is It a Bad Idea to Put Off Other Applications Until Hearing Back From Your Early Decision Application?


There are three primary reasons that putting off your other applications while you wait to hear back about your early decision application is a bad idea.


  • The first, and perhaps most obvious reason is the time crunch. Writing your early application essays probably took one to two weeks if you were quick. Writing the same quality essays in that same time period for another seven schools to meet regular deadlines will be extremely difficult.  If you are not accepted, you will likely not finish your essays on time, or will not have enough time to present your absolute best work, thereby decreasing your chances of acceptance in the regular round.


  •  The second reason not to procrastinate on your other applications is the uncertainty factor that will result if you don’t get in. If you’re rejected or deferred, you won’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 Harvard and Princeton, but that rejection from Cornell could force you to rethink that.  Having not written any essays, you’ll then have to generate new material for a whole host of different schools due to the uncertainty of where you now stand.  This also contributes to a heightened sense of stress, but you can avoid this entirely but working on your remaining applications while you’re still in limbo.


  • The final reason not to delay your regular applications is the possible sadness effect.  College rejections in and of themselves are unemotional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sting or feel personal in the moment.  If you are deferred or rejected from your dream school, this could subconsciously decrease your resolve and stamina in the crucial last few weeks before regular applications are due.  Attempting to write upwards of 15 essays for a bunch of schools that were lower on your list than your dream school will be emotionally draining and unfulfilling. This could result in essays that are substantially lower in quality, possibly losing you even more acceptances.  It’s better to get those essays out of the way before any impending disappointment sets in to ensure they are of the same quality as your first batch.

So what should you do after applying early?

Applying to college early decision can be a great strategy for students who know what college is their top choice, but applying early decision doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about regular college applications entirely. If you applied early to a very selective school, you’ll want to continue to work on your applications for all three buckets: target, reach, and safety. This will allow you enough time to work on your regular decision applications and increase your chances of acceptance


For more information about early decision, early action, and regular decision applications, check out these CollegeVine posts:


4 Things You Need to Know Before Submitting Your Early Decision Application

Early Decision Deadlines for Every College

Your Complete List of Early Action Deadlines for Every EA College

Is Applying Early Decision Right For You?

13 College Application Goals for This Fall

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

How to Move Past College Rejection

Important Next Steps After Receiving a College Acceptance Letter

Deferred From the Ivy League? Don’t Panic—Do This Instead.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.