Ivy League Admission Tips: Regular Decision, Early Decision, and Early Action, Part 2

In our previous blog post, we examined the differences between applying regular decision, early decision, and early action. These three ways to submit college applications can, if used strategically, increase your chances of being admitted to a top school. Of course, every applicant’s situation differs, and you’ll have to evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of each application type carefully.

As we learned in our last post, regular decision applicants are evaluated against all others in the general application pool. Early decision applications are weighed against a far smaller pool of applicants, and this application type is binding—if a college accepts your early decision application, you will have to attend that school. Finally, early action applications are also weighed against a smaller pool of applicants but are nonbinding. Keeping these differences in mind will help you determine which application type is best.

Application Strategies

The increased acceptance rates for early applications are significant, so if you are able to prepare a compelling admissions profile in time for an early application, you should apply early wherever possible. Doing so will make your application even more effective. Below, we’ll discuss some Ivy League admission tips for applying early decision, early action, and regular decision.

If Financially Possible, Apply Early Decision

Unless you cannot afford to pay full tuition and have to examine each college’s financial aid offer, you should apply early decision to your top choice if that school offers an early decision program.

Also, if you are planning to apply as a recruited athlete or legacy student, you should research whether the college requires you to do so through early decision. At some colleges, for instance, legacy applicants are given more consideration if they apply early decision. And many top colleges require athletic recruits to apply early decision.

Apply Early Action

Whether or not you apply early decision, you should consider applying early action to one or more schools. If you apply early action, you will not only have a higher chance of being admitted, but you will also be able to review financial aid packages and consider additional scholarships and grants before enrolling.

Check for Special Deadline Policies

Once you have refined your college list, you need to examine the application deadlines and policies and be aware of special requirements. For example, some colleges have priority and preferred deadlines, which are earlier than the standard regular decision deadline. To remain competitive, you should submit your application by the priority or preferred date.

Some colleges have a rolling admissions policy, which means that application decisions are made as applications are received. If you are applying to a college with a rolling admissions policy, applying early is in your best interest.

Don’t Apply Early at the Expense of a Strong Application

If you plan to apply early for any reason—such as participating in an early decision or early action program, meeting a priority or preferred date, or being competitive at a school with a rolling admissions policy—carefully weigh the advantages of being early against the quality of your application. In other words, make sure that the quality of your application doesn’t suffer. If, for instance, your essays aren’t in top shape, you should take the time to polish them.

Still, starting the application process early is usually the best option. While you shouldn’t apply early at the expense of a strong application, you should start preparing your application with enough time to make it stand out and submit it early. Admittedly, it can be challenging to know when to start preparing for college admissions or how to do so. Ivy League Prep offers personalized consulting services, helping college applicants gain admission to the best schools in the United States.