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Early admissions programs at US colleges

Each year, there is much debate in the American press about the advantages and drawbacks of early admission programs at US colleges. Many of our students are unsure whether they should be considering an early application. As always, we counsel students individually on this matter, as there are many variables to consider.

Certainly, students who look at admission statistics for early and regular applicants worry that they might be at a disadvantage if they fail to apply early. These statistics, however, can be misleading as, at most universities, early applications are dominated by students with the very strongest grades and test scores and those with a legacy advantage or athletic recruitment. There is also a marked difference between admission rates for Early Decision programs (where students are legally bound to accept an offer of admission if it is made) and Early Action programs (where students can apply to, and consider offers from, other colleges in the regular round of admission).

As the provost of Stanford pointed out in a New York Times article a few years ago, if “the early pool is, on average, more qualified, then applying precisely the same standard will result in a higher rate of acceptance.” He goes on to note that at Stanford, “we actually apply somewhat higher standards to our early pool, since we do not want to accept students early unless we’re confident they would get in during the regular round. This is reflected in the SAT scores for these students: they average 40 points higher than those of students admitted later.”

Applying in the regular round is the best option for many of our students since it allows them to investigate their choices more carefully, strengthen their grades and test scores, enhance their extracurricular profiles, and write less hurried applications.

Those students wishing to file an early application to a US college are reminded that the deadline for informing the University Counselling Office of their intention is Tuesday, September 30. You should aim to complete your entire application by Wednesday, October 15 in order to allow time for review by your counsellor.

Early Decision candidates and their parents must submit a signed UCC Early Decision agreement to Ms Berndsen before our office will sign off on an Early Decision application.