I chatted with my brother last week. His older son — we’ll call him Starsky — is a senior in a small high school in the rural Midwest. Starsky is still working on his longish list of colleges, still visiting a few, and recently developed a plan for what he might like to study in college.
All this is great.
Then I asked, “Is he applying anywhere early? Not early decision, since he’s still working on where he wants to apply, but early action.” My brother said, “Not yet.”
I did not scream over the telephone, but I’m sure I strongly suggested that Starsky consider applying somewhere early.
(Both my brother and I would agree that I obsess about these things more than he does. I’m sure his approach is healthier. [Cue the emails from friends reminding me of this blog's tagline.])
Truth be told, Starsky is an excellent student, a superb athlete, and an all-around great kid — he’ll do well wherever he decides to go to college and the school will be fortunate to have him.
However — and Starsky, I’m talking to you now — here are three reasons why you should apply to at least one college via early action:
1. Get one done now, so you have that great sense of accomplishment. Most students and parents have heard war stories from other families about missed deadlines, computers or websites crashing, lost recommendation letters, late night stressed-out arguments, and more. It’s not insurmountable, it’s just tough. There’s a huge difference in how it feels to be almost done with an application and how it feels after you’ve clicked on “submit.” That high can take you through however many more applications you plan to complete.
2. Get one done now, so you’ve seen and completed the Common Application interface through to the end. The Common App has made it much easier to apply to a number of colleges, but no one working their way through it the first time would call it easy. It requires your full attention:
- Many colleges require supplementary applications and many of those require supplementary essays.
- Some elements need to be written separately, then cut-and-pasted into the interface. Other pieces need to be uploaded.
- Some colleges require the fee paid prior to submission, others vice versa.
- Printing the App for proofreading leads to confusion: not all colleges require every question the application provides. However, the printed App includes those questions, showing them unanswered.
Completing the Common App all the way through one time will make all the subsequent applications much easier. Plus, now’s the time to figure out how to submit different versions or how to correct something for another college.
3. Get one done now, because early action provides early responses. It’s difficult to describe the feeling you will get when you receive that first acceptance. It doesn’t matter so much which college it is — that’s when you know you will go to college. Receiving an acceptance in December is worth busting your gut in October. Plus it makes the January 1st to April 1st wait for regular action responses that much easier to take.
If you think I’m being hard on you, Starsky, just text your cousin, Mod Squad Pete. He’ll tell you this is nothing compared to having to live with my “encouragements” day in, day out.