Last Minute Tips for Early Decision and Early Action Applications

Padya Paramita

Last Minute Tips for Early Decision and Early Action Applications

Now that October’s in full swing, it is crunch time for high school seniors applying early decision and early action to different schools. With just a few weeks in hand, there aren’t too many major decisions that you should make—by now you have to be settled on an early decision (or restrictive early action) school if you have a college that’s always been a dream for you. Or, you might be applying early action to a bunch of different schools. No matter the case, we have prepared a series of last minute tips to make sure you have everything you need to succeed before the early decision and early action deadline on November 1st.

Double check and triple check you’ve written all the supplemental essays and questions

Once you’ve drafted your essays for your early decision and early action school, that is not enough. The Common App can be tricky—the platform often has questions for students from individual schools that may not meet the eye when you Google for their supplemental essays. Some schools, such as Columbia, don’t have a “why major” prompt appear until you’ve chosen whether you’re applying to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering. As part of your last minute early decision and early action check, you should definitely insert all of your information into the Common App, answer all school-specific questions and make sure you have answered all of their big and small questions.

Make sure you’re answering what the question is asking for

Supplemental essays—especially the short ones—may seem simple at first glance but they can be tricky. One of the most important parts of your last minute early decision and early action check should be to ensure you’re answering exactly what the question is asking for. It can be tempting to copy/paste a “why major” essay from one school onto another but you must read the prompts very carefully. You might have answered a question about how your academic interest developed for one college, but this won’t suffice for a college such as USC, where the essay is more specifically about how you will pursue the subject at USC so it needs to be catered to the university’s offerings.

Consider an early action school

If you’re mostly done with writing your personal statement and early decision supplements, why not consider an early action school? Early action schools—although nonbinding—allow you the chance to get applications out of the way and put less pressure on you during the RD round. A lot of prestigious universities such as the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia all have early action. USC has also added an early action policy this year. It could also be your chance to get a couple safeties in. A lot of large public universities have the early action option and by getting a couple safeties in your list early—and hearing back from them in January—can ensure you have at least somewhere to go in the fall. But remember, only apply to colleges you’re excited about.

Consider schools with no supplemental essays

If you’re hoping to add schools during the early decisions and early action rounds beyond just your number one choice but you’re still working on your ED application—or behind on your personal statement or activities list—there are colleges that have early action routes that don’t require any supplemental essays. Consider schools such as Northeastern, Case Western, or the University of Iowa—all of which don’t require supplemental essays as early action possibilities that require fewer application components. 

Edit your personal statement—and edit again

If you’re confident that you’ve done everything in your power to complete polished and wonderful early decision and early action essays, it’s time to revisit your personal statement. Often, we see new sides to pieces of writing we have left alone for a white. So, if you’ve taken some time apart from your personal statement it’s time to read it again. It might turn out that you discover a new angle or you want to slightly tweak a couple of sentences. Either way, right before submitting your ED/EA applications is the time to do so.

Don’t wait until the last minute to submit!

Finally, when it comes to clicking that “submit” button, students often hold off until the last day, until the last minute. Don’t do this if you can help it. You never know what technical difficulties you might encounter. Don’t save your early decision and early action submissions for a minute before the deadline, it’s never a good idea.

Good luck!

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