Art by Rachel Lee

It’s OK to not apply early to colleges

I entered my first-period class on Nov. 1 and found a lot of empty seats. This trend continued throughout my classes, but I wasn’t surprised — after all, it was the day many early college applications were due.

While the deadlines for applying early to college have passed and many seniors have successfully submitted their applications, students should be OK with not applying early and simply submitting applications on a regular deadline instead.

The main draw for applying early is the seemingly high acceptance rate for early applicants. For example, Brown University’s early decision acceptance rate was 15.9% compared to its regular decision acceptance rate of 5.4% for the class of 2025. These comparatively higher acceptance rates lead many seniors to believe that they have a better chance of being accepted if they apply early, which is not entirely true.

Although the numbers seem attractive, there is more to college admissions than a percentage. Many students who are applying early to colleges are legacy students, meaning their parents attended or worked at the school, or are athletes who have guaranteed admission and are committed to playing a sport. These higher acceptance rates inflate the overall early acceptance rate.

Sure, there may be a small boost to your application if you apply to a college with binding early action or early decision to demonstrate your commitment, but you are likely going to be competing with other highly qualified applicants who are also just as dedicated to that college.

Applying to colleges early isn’t worth forcing yourself to quickly make up your mind about what college you might attend for four more years just to accommodate the restrictions colleges often have for early applicants. 

If you apply to a college with a binding early application, you lose additional time to further compare colleges as well as their financial aid packages. Some colleges don’t offer merit-based scholarships or financial aid packages for early applicants, most notably Tulane and MIT. You may also be waiting on the results of some scholarships that may not arrive as early.

The regular admissions cycle offers so many more choices in colleges to apply to and gives you more time to build your resume and plan for financial aid. In comparison, the only benefits to applying early are a slightly higher chance of acceptance and the relief of finishing some of your college applications early.

So seniors — if you didn’t apply early, don’t stress. Early applications are not the end-all-be-all in your college application. The most important thing is making sure your essays are the best they can be and encapsulate you as a person, and it’s OK if you need a little more time to do so.