Early Admissions

By Harini Subrahmanyam Fredrickson, Special Correspondent
If you are a strong student committed to your top-choice college, then you should consider early admission.  If you apply between mid-October and early November, you will receive your notification by mid-December.  Since colleges give preference to students who demonstrate a strong interest, you can increase your chances of admission.  On the flip side, you may be giving up certain benefits like the opportunity to compare financial aid packages or negotiating a better merit-based scholarship.
 There are many early admissions options to consider: Early Decision, Early Action, Single-Choice Early Action, Rolling Admissions, and Instant/Immediate Decision Plans.  Not all colleges offer early admissions plans and options vary by institution.  
Early Decision is binding, that is, you are required to accept the offer.  You are allowed to apply to other colleges, but to only one early admission plan.  Once you are accepted, you must retract all other offers.
Early Action plans are more flexible.  There are no restrictions on the number of colleges to which you can apply.  You will receive your notification by mid-December and you are given the option to wait until spring to reply.
Single-Choice Early Action is similar to Early Action except that you cannot apply to any other early admission plans except rolling admissions.  You are, however, allowed to apply to colleges for regular decision.
Rolling Admissions applications are processed within a few weeks of submission.  The competition increases along with the number of students admitted, so it is better to apply early.  This plan is non-binding, so you will have until spring to accept the offer.
Instant/Immediate Decision Plans provide on-the-spot or next-day notification.  You take your completed application, official transcripts, standardized test scores, and recommendations to a scheduled interview.  Either at the end of your visit or the next day, you will receive the college’s decision.  You will have until the spring to accept their offer.