There I was, refreshing the web page for what seemed like the one millionth time that day. The anxiety was finally about to come to a close – I was one click away from knowing if I got into my first choice college. However, when I clicked the button and confetti fell from the top of the screen and the words “Congratulations. The answer is yes” appeared, it was all worth it.
This exciting moment I described is the culmination of the Early Decision application process for a senior in high school. This program is set up for those who know what their first choice college or university is. You apply early, and if you get in, you are required to go there. If you go back on that decision there can be serious repercussions. With these admissions decisions rolling in right about now for Casady Seniors who applied early decision, I figured it might be time to give the rest of the Upper Division a leg up on what that process entails. In this step by step plan, I’ll give you the ins and outs of what the process is like, and offer a few pieces of advice.
Step 1: This really goes for everyone, but you should start taking the SAT or ACT early. Preferably beginning at the end of Sophomore year or the beginning of Junior year. Having your standardized test situation figured out will ease a lot of stress, especially when applying somewhere early.
Step 2: When deciding whether or not to apply to a college or university under an early decision agreement, make sure you have visited. You do not want to make a binding agreement with an institution that you have never step foot on.
Step 3: During your visit, have an interview with someone in the admissions department if possible. It will help you know what the people at that institution are like and it will give them a better feel for who you are in a way that your application cannot show.
Step 4: Start thinking about a teacher who will write a good letter of recommendation for you. This teacher does not have to be the one that gave you the highest grade as a lot of people might think. You want to choose the teacher that you think knows the best sides of you. These recommendations are key components to your application and it is good to have them squared away early when trying to meet a deadline.
Step 5: As mentioned earlier, going back on an Early Decision agreement can have serious repercussions. However, if the school is unable to meet your financial needs, you are in a different boat. There are exceptions for when this occurs, but it would be prudent to go onto the school’s website and calculate how much need based aid you are eligible to receive and if that will be enough to allow you to attend the school. If finances are a huge issue, going Early Decision might not be the best idea.
Step 6: Ask your college counselors all kinds of questions. They are always there to help you, even when you send entirely too many texts and emails to them.
Step 7: On the day that the admissions decisions are released, do not plan on being productive at all. You’ll find yourself only thinking about whether or not you’ll get in in the middle of your Physics class and miss an important concept that’s on your quiz the next week (Sorry Mr. Z). You also may or may not also find it difficult to eat, even when Sage happens to make your favorite lunch of chicken strips and mac and cheese.
When it comes down to it, committing to one college as your first choice is a big deal. It takes a lot to put yourself out there completely for one school, and knowing that they can simply toss you aside if you don’t fit their needs is tough to swallow. Don’t do it if you have any doubts about the school in question. If you do apply somewhere early, I can promise you that waiting a month to hear back will be the longest month of your life. You’ll pretty much count down the days every day until you receive your decision. If you reap the rewards of applying early and get in, it all seems worth it. Unfortunately, some things do not always work out, so regardless of whether or not you get in, know that you are going to end up at a great school and do well. As Mr. Bottomly told me today: “It’s about the person, not the school.”