Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?

I typically spend most early summer mornings quietly on my back patio as the sun creeps over the horizon, and I’m always amazed how the birds find the worms, which I would never see, in the dewy morning grass.  It’s made me wonder if the early birds always get the worm.

As rising seniors anticipate the release of college applications, many are weighing Early Decision (ED) against Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD).  Many of them are confused as to what the implications of each are.  To begin with, not all schools offer all three options.

WARNING: Early Decision is binding.  This means you can submit one Early Decision application at the school of your dreams.  Applications are typically submitted no later than November 1st and students have their answer in December.  It’s the night crawler of all night crawlers for the early bird.  If accepted, you promptly withdraw all other submitted applications and enroll.  There is no opportunity to consider financial aid packages before committing.  Are you feeling the pressure?

With this pressure comes the advantage that the acceptance rate for students is higher during Early Decision.  According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors, it is 15% higher overall.  Don’t let that sway you though.  Only a student 100% sold out on their school of choice, who also doesn’t need to compare aid packages should really consider ED.

There’s still an opportunity for the early bird though.  Early Action is a favorite choice of mine.  Deadlines are usually around December 1st and students get THE answer in January.  For many students, it eliminates the pressure of not knowing.  Finally the, “Where are you going to go” question has an answer and they can move onto “What’s your major”. Unlike Early Decision, EA is non-binding leaving plenty of opportunity to compare aid packages before pulling the trigger by May 1st.

For the student who got a slow start to high school and wants to continue his or her upward trend in grades to prove his worthiness before leaving the nest, Regular Decision may be the way to go.  Deadlines are later allowing an opportunity to submit updated transcripts, and maybe even test scores, from the first term of the senior year.  However, at some schools, full consideration for merit scholarships is tied to completing Early Action applications. Be sure to check before you apply!

So yes, while the early bird often does get the worm, proceed with caution and keep in mind that overall college acceptance rates are at 67%, so you are likely to get into a best-fit college for you.