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College Corner: College applications options

[/media-credit] As the classic saying goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” This seems to be the case for most of life’s circumstances, but does it hold true for college applications?

College Corner is a column about all things college, covering everything from college preparation to tips on application. A new column will be posted on the first and/or second Wednesday of the month.

As the classic saying goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” This seems to be the case for most of life’s circumstances, but does it hold true for college applications?

I recently had a student in my office who was contemplating this very decision. “Should I apply to all 10 schools on my list and if so should I apply early action to all, some, or none of them?” He eventually came to the conclusion that colleges should all have the same deadline, making the entire process much less complicated.

Although different deadlines are confusing to keep track of, they are not the evil schemes of colleges to make life more difficult for students but instead they are opportunities for students to get a head start on the process and in some cases may provide a better opportunity for acceptance.

To clear up any ambiguity on the matter, let me go on to explain the differences between college application options.

First, there is the early decision application. This option is the most rare of the three and is most commonly offered by the more highly competitive, prestigious universities. Students can only apply early decision for one college but are able to apply using the early action or regular decision admission options for other schools.

However, if they are accepted to their top choice, they must immediately withdraw their applications to the other schools.

For students who are surer than sure about the school they want to attend, early decision is great because it shows the college how serious you are about going there; the downside is that if you get in and the financial aid package isn?t exactly what you expected, you may have to take out additional loans or find more scholarships than you initially anticipated in order to afford it.

The second choice is early action. This provides the benefits of early decision however the decision is non-binding. One of the greatest features of early action is that if students are accepted, they are able to weigh out their options, compare financial aid packages and can wait until spring to confirm their college selection.

This route would be good for students interested in several highly-competitive schools but still unsure of their number one choice.

It is also important to note that the acceptance rate for early action is often higher than the regular decision acceptance rate. The U.S. News published a recent study listing schools with the highest acceptance rate for early action.

It is important to note that although uncommon, some schools can elect to defer students and give them another chance during the regular decision period. The early action application deadline varies among colleges but most range from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1. Students who choose this option will usually be notified of their acceptance or denial around Dec. 15.

The final option is regular decision. This is the most common choice for students and for many, the safest. In many cases students do not have all of their materials together, best test scores, and necessary recovery class credits in time for the early application deadlines. Students should put a significant amount of time and effort into the application process.

If an application does not showcase the student at their best, it should not be submitted until this is accomplished. Although acceptance rate is usually higher for early applications, students should be confident of all materials that are submitted. The downside of the regular application deadline is that students are not notified of acceptance until the spring, but for some this extra time to prepare is worth the months of uncertainty. The regular decision deadline for the majority of colleges is Jan 1, 2013.

The best advice I can offer in this time of anxiety and uncertainty is that the Lord is in control of our destiny. I am reminded in Jeremiah 29:11 that the Lord has great plans for us. He rewards those who seek after Him and although His plans are not always what we desire, they are always what we need.

For more College Corners, read the Oct. 3 article, College Corner: SAT or ACT?

For more opinions, read the Oct. 22 article, Final Presidential Debate to be held, Oct. 22.

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