Road to college begins earlier than ever for seniors

Road to college begins earlier than ever for seniors

Senior year. For many, it’s one of the most memorable and important years of their lives. If you were to ask the average person how they remember their senior year, chances are, they’re likely to tell you that their year was fun, but most definitely busy.

There are the “lasts.” The last homecoming, the last first day of school, the last Friday night football game. There are also the last high school responsibilities. The final essays written, the final grades to be earned.

However, before any of that can be done, those seniors have to pencil in some time to work on their college applications on to their calendars. For the past few years, they’ve been doing it earlier than ever – not by choice, necessarily, but out of necessity.

“I’m disturbed that seniors don’t know about early admission,” principal Tom Lietz said. “I can’t count how many times I’ve mentioned it to seniors and their families.”

In recent years, countless students have been told that if they had only applied during the Early Action or Early Decision window, they would’ve had a greater chance at being accepted into their dream school.

It’s a secret hiding in plain sight, and one many students do not discover until it’s too late.

Lietz has been making numerous announcements to the school and sending emails home to parents in hopes of changing what people think they know about the college admissions deadlines.

For instance, one email sent home to students by Lietz through Naviance, the college assistance tool available to all students, said “Should You Be Applying to College Before December 1?”

According to the experts, the answer is simply “yes.”

For instance, Vanderbilt University’s stated acceptance rate is 12%. However, the university’s acceptance rate of early decision applicants is 24%, compared to the regular decision students’ acceptance rate of 8%.

“I think [applying for early admission] will benefit me,” senior Claire Decker said. “If you look at the statistics, it is higher for early admission than regular decision, so I think I have a pretty good chance [at getting in to the schools I want].”

The University of Michigan’s early admission process is Early Action. According to University of Michigan admissions officer Zachary Marentay, this process can benefit applicants.

“We don’t flat-out deny too many applications during Early Action,” Marentay explained. “Instead of denying a student, we will defer them.”

Senior Alex Larsen applied for the University of Michigan’s Early Action and believes that his decision to do so was a good one.

“I’m applying for Early Action to the University of Michigan,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that it will help me in the long run.”

It’s a secret hiding in plain sight, and one many students do not discover until it’s too late.”

Highly-selective schools, like the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business often fill their spots before October is over.

Transferring to specific focus schools like Ross, for instance, can be difficult for students that are already enrolled at the university, since the spots are already filled by incoming freshmen. This makes applying early even more critical for students with these interests.

Understanding the difference between Early Action, Early Decision, and regular decision is crucial to a student’s success, according to Lietz.

The College Board sums it up best, stating on their website that “Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1.”

Determining what to apply for is up to the student and what is best for them – whether they know exactly where they’d like to go, or if they still want to have options before the May 1 decision.

“I’m [applying for] restrictive Early Action,” Decker said. “None of my other schools have Early Action, they only have Early Decision. I don’t want to be bound to one college.”

No matter what kind of decision a student will want to make, Lietz stresses that applying for early admission is extremely important.

“It is absolutely critical that if we want to be competitive as a school,” Lietz said, “we are applying for college early.”

Whether it’s in the actual admissions process or in the scholarship field, early admissions can put students at a greater advantage during the college decision-making process.

“When it comes down to it, the review process [for early applications] is the same,” Marentay admitted. “This time period is when we are most interested and give greater consideration for scholarships and grants.”

Early admissions applications not only benefit students in attending the school they want, but it frees up more time for them later to enjoy their senior year.

“Most of [me applying] is so I am not stressed and worried about writing those essays later in the school year,” Larsen said, “and I can just get it done.”

Every college and university has its own benefits for early admissions, and it’s critical that students do their research so they know how and when to apply to their ideal universities.