Early Action

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Understanding Single Choice Early Action

college admissions consultant cheshireBack in June I wrote a post about the difference between Early Decision and Early Action to help families and students better understand their options in the early admission game. Recently, Michael Nardi, a government relations, economic development & public policy consultant, commented that Early Action comes in a few forms which have ramifications for students considering early applications to other schools.

And he’s absolutely right.

Some schools practice what is called Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) otherwise known as Restrictive Early Action (REA).

Let’s take a look at two of the more popular schools in the Boston area, Harvard and Boston College, to understand what all of this means.

1. If a school offers SCEA or REA, neither is a binding decision meaning that if a student is admitted, he or she can still wait to hear on their other applications before making a decision prior to May 1st.

2. Students need to pay close attention to the fine print in regards to Early Decision (ED) applications. Harvard’s SCEA policy says that while students cannot apply anywhere ED, they can apply in the second round of ED applications known as ED II if, and only if, the application due date is January 1st or later. Boston College, on the other hand will not allow a student to apply ED or ED II period.

3. Early Action applications to other schools are also affected. At Harvard, students cannot apply to any other private colleges EA but may apply to public colleges while Boston College applicants can still apply EA to both.

4. Students cannot apply using SCEA at more than one school. Both Harvard and Boston College adhere to this rule.

5. Students are allowed to apply to any other college, private or public, through Rolling Admission or Regular Decision at both Harvard and Boston College.

So why do these colleges use these restrictive policies?

Colleges admit students with the hope that the student will ultimately accept the offer and enroll there. Of all the ways to demonstrate interest, applying SCEA is one the most definitive ways to show a school they are your top choice. If you are admitted through SCEA you can still consider other offers, but you’ve given up a lot of other early admission opportunities to do so and you have sent a pretty clear message that you are likely to enroll if admitted. And students who are likely to enroll at a college are extremely valuable to admission counselors.

At the end of the day, if you have your heart set on attending Harvard, Boston College, or one of the other schools who offer a form of SCEA like Princeton, Georgetown, Yale, Notre Dame or Stanford, then applying early is most likely a good choice. Of course, you need to make sure that you are a strong candidate to begin with and that your application is flawless and ready to go by November 1st.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation. Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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What’s The Difference Between Early Decision & Early Action?

college consultant Southington CT

As I work with students and their families on college lists, one question that always comes up is, “what’s the difference between Early Decision and Early Action?”

Typically it’s followed by some sort of statement that sounds like, “I hate to ask a dumb question like this but I really don’t know.”

It’s not a dumb question at all.

In fact, like many other questions that come up during the college search and application process, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

So, let’s talk about the difference.

Early Decision, also known as ED, is binding while Early Action is not. This means that if you apply ED to a college and are admitted, you are now going to be enrolling at that college. You’ve just gotten married, in a sense.
In fact, when you apply ED to a college, and you can only apply to one school as an ED applicant, the student, parents and school counselor all sign an electronic agreement on the application stating that, if admitted, the student agrees to immediately withdraw all other pending applications. You don’t get to see who else wants to admit you and you definitely don’t get to wait around for financial aid awards so that you can compare offers.

So, the ED school says, “yes”, and the student is locked in. Their college application process is over. And, most likely, this is all happening in November or December of their senior year.

Early Action, on the other hand, is non-binding. Students can apply to as many Early Action schools as they like and, if admitted, are under no pressure to commit early. They can wait on their remaining decisions and review their financial aid awards before committing by May 1st. Like ED, students admitted through Early Action are still hearing back earlier in the process than students who apply through Regular Decision (typically January or early February) but the key difference is that their options have not been taken away.

Which brings me to the most important factor in deciding to apply ED or EA.

If a student knows, without a doubt, that the college fits them in every possible way, that it’s THE place they want to attend and that the cost is something the family can afford without regard to financial assistance, then applying ED can work out great. Some of the most selective colleges in the country are more generous with their decisions during the ED round of applications and, therefore, a student’s chances may improve. Note that I did not say, “will” improve. Students who are not strong applicants to begin with will not improve their chances just by applying ED.

But, if you are worried about cost, and you do want to have options, Early Action is very clearly the better way to go.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation. Not sure if a college consultant is for you? Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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ED, EA, Regular, Rolling – Which Way Should You Apply?

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College

With the launch of the Common Application on August 1st, the 2012-2013 college application season is upon us. If you’re not familiar with the Common Application (more commonly referred to as the Common App), here’s a nice little post from stateuniversity.com that will get you caught up.

Last week I talked about the different ways of applying to colleges. Your level of interest and your qualifications are what will help you decide which one is the way to go. For now, let’s talk about the differences and how they affect you.

Early Decision, also known as ED, is where you choose to apply anywhere from November 1st to December 1st, and can expect to hear a decision by December 15th. Some schools will offer two rounds of early decision where ED I applicants hear in December and ED II applicants, who will apply typically around the same time as regular decision candidates, will expect to hear in February.

Early decision can be a great idea if you know, without a doubt, that you are in love with everything a school has to offer, you know you can afford to attend that school and you are ready, willing and able to commit to that school. You’re all in with early decision and the risk level is significant if you haven’t done your homework ahead of time.

Some things to consider with early decision:

You’re allowed to apply early to ONE school only and, if accepted, that decision is binding. That’s it. There’s no backing out of an early decision acceptance. This is why your love for the school must be true – you won’t have a financial aid award yet and you will have to contact the other schools at which you submitted regular applications and notify them that you are withdrawing those applications immediately. Some students will point to higher acceptance rates to justify their choice to apply early – for this past year, the regular acceptance rate at Duke was 11% while the early acceptance rate was 25%; for Johns Hopkins the rates were 16% and 38% respectively. While the acceptance rates are typically higher, the talent pool is also that much more competitive. Just spend a few minutes on College Confidential and search for “early decision” to tap into the mania.

Early Action, or EA, is where applicants complete applications in November or December and expect to hear an answer by the start of the New Year. Early action applicants can be accepted, denied or deferred to the regular decision round of applications. Unlike early decision, early action applicants are not bound to their acceptance and have the choice to commit by the May 1st deadline or attend another school altogether.

There are variations of early action policies so it is important to check with each school first. Some schools are considered single choice early action meaning that they will not allow applicants to apply to any other schools early. Other schools are considered unrestricted and allow applicants to apply early decision or early action to any number of schools.

Early action is great because you have the benefit of applying early and showing a school that you are a very interested applicant while also keeping your options open.

Regular Decision is the process by which you apply by each college’s published deadline which is usually around January 1st. Once the application and materials have been sent, applicants can expect to hear a decision by April 1st. Regular decision applicants can be admitted, denied or placed on a waiting list. More on waiting lists another day.

Regular decision is the vanilla of the application world. It’s plain and simple and doesn’t come with any surprises. Well, that’s not entirely true. Students who choose not to pay attention to what a school is looking for in its applicants can often be met with very disappointing surprises. 

Rolling Admission is where students are admitted on an ongoing, or rolling, basis. The schools begin making decisions in the early fall and continue until they have met their requirements for the new freshman class. Rolling admission provides students with a long period of time in which they can apply – often several months. Colleges may accept or reject an applicant right away, or they may hold off for a period time in order to compare him or her to other applicants. Depending on how strong or weak of an applicant they are, students may also find themselves on the waiting list.

There are several pros to rolling admission. Applicants can apply as soon as the application season is open and, therefore, demonstrate their interest to a school. Remember, colleges are looking for students who are more likely to enroll. Applying early on is a great way to show that you are that student. Because decisions are made on an ongoing basis, the earlier you apply, the earlier you can expect to hear a decision. It can feel great to get that first acceptance out of the way and may just help you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends that much more.

For the procrastinators, rolling admission is great because you can apply when you’re ready. I’m not saying you should work at a snail’s pace, but let’s be honest – some of you just do. Maybe you want to wait for first semester grades before you apply because you know you have some strong grades coming. Maybe your SAT scores were low and you wanted to take them again in December or January. Maybe you just happened to come upon a school mid-year that you hadn’t thought of before and now want to apply – for any of these reasons and more, schools with rolling admissions grant you the opportunity to apply later in your senior year.

Now, for every pro of rolling admission there are also cons. Just because decisions are rendered on a rolling basis, doesn’t mean everyone will hear right away. If your application isn’t the strongest, you could end up waiting several weeks or more before you hear back. This can get very frustrating when your friends hear back from the same school and you’re stuck waiting and wondering. Schools with rolling admission will start awarding aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Funds are limited so if you apply too late, your financial aid award may not be very helpful. Housing could also be an issue if you apply too late.

As with anything in the college application process, do your homework early on. Check out the admissions webpage for any schools you are interested to find out which types of applications they offer.

If you have any questions or comments about the types of applications available to you and which one might be the best way for you to go, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you!

You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

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Must Have Items On Your College List – Part II

Two weeks ago, I talked about how to build a great college list and then last week I introduced the first four of eight “must-haves” you should consider when creating a college list. Today, in Part II, I’m going to cover types of admission, chance of admission, graduation rates and cost.

Types of admission
There are several types of admission and how much you love a school will often dictate how you end up applying. Here’s a rundown of the major types of admission to consider:

1. Regular decision is the process by which you apply by each college’s published deadlines. By doing so, you will receive an admissions decision by April 1st though there is no obligation to commit until the May 1st response deadline.

2. Early decision, also known as ED is where you can apply early and receive your decision early – typically by mid-December. The price for this early decision is that you commit to attending the college and agree to withdraw all other applications. You can only apply ED to one school and, since this is a binding acceptance, you better know that this school is the right one for you on all fronts.

3. Early action, or EA, also allows you to apply early though, unlike with ED, you are under no obligation to accept the offer of admission. You can submit other applications, wait for their responses and then make a decision by May 1st. Essentially, you can play the field. There are variations of EA policies, so be sure to check with each school individually on their restrictions.

4. Rolling admissions is where students are admitted on a regular, or rolling, basis. The schools will make decisions until they have met their requirements for the new freshman class.

We’ll talk more about these different types of admission in a week or two.

Chance of admission

It’s important to get a feel for your chance of admission so that you have appropriate expectations about each school before you add it to you list.

That’s right. BEFORE.

Do your research by using websites like the College Board’s Big Future to understand whether or not you are a competitive applicant when compared to students who have previously been admitted. You know Harvard and Yale are a reach for just about everyone, but do you know if Quinnipiac is a reach? By selecting the SAT & ACT Scores tab on the Applying section, you would see that the middle 50% of admitted and enrolled students score within 520-590 on the Critical Reading, 540-610 on the MATH and 540-610 on the Writing. Under the Academics tab, you can compare your high school courses against the courses Quinnipiac expects to see from its applicants. Now, where do you stack up and what do you think of your chances?

Graduation rates

College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, right? Well, for the most part, graduation rates are actually quoted for six years instead of four. So, if you’re planning a budget based on four years’ worth of tuition and fees, you want to know that the schools you are adding to your college list can actually help you accomplish this. Want to know the four, five or six-year graduation rates for Boston College? You can find them at College Results Online. Want to know how Boston College’s peer institutions fare in the graduation rate category? You can find that information by simply clicking on the Similar Colleges tab.


There’s a lot to say about cost and the factors that go into it, but for today I want to talk about understanding that the price in the window, is not necessarily the price you end up paying.

Tuition and fees have risen over 400% since the early 80’s. But like everything in your college search, doing some homework ahead of time can really help.

What’s important to understand is that a lot of schools discount their tuition– especially private schools. This adjusted cost is called net price and it can, and will, be different for families based on the qualifications of each applicant, how much money a school typically throws at its new students and your EFC. EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and it is the amount a college will expect you to contribute towards your cost. The higher your EFC, the more you will be expected to contribute and the less aid you can expect to receive. Since last fall, colleges have been required to host net price calculators somewhere on their website. You can use the calculators to enter your personal information and get an idea of what the net price might be for you.

The calculators are far from perfect, but if a school’s cost is going to be too much for you, it’s always better to be disappointed before you apply rather than after you have been accepted.

If you have any questions about building a great college list, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you!

You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.


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