Decoding College Admissions Speak: Navigating the Tricky College Application Process
New York, NY (October 30, 2009) -- The college application process can often be a smorgasbord of confusing acronyms, deadlines and restrictions for parents—many of whom may not have applied to college in more than 20 years—and their college-bound teenagers. What’s the difference between applying “early action,” “early decision,” and “regular decision?” During which round should students apply? Does when they apply affect their chances of admission or their financial aid packages? Which schools have eliminated early decision altogether? With early application deadlines beginning November 1st and 15th, it’s critical for families of college-bound teens to understand admissions speak.
“There is no one application plan that is right for everyone,” says college admissions expert Dr. Katherine Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise and ApplyWise, an internationally recognized college admissions counseling company based in New York City. “While some students should apply early to increase their chances of admission, others may need to hold off until they can improve their academic profiles, do additional research on the schools they’d like to attend, or even compare financial aid packages.”
Defining key college admissions terms:
Common Application is a standardized form accepted by almost 400 colleges that allows students to complete an application once and send it to many schools. Caution: Many schools require supplemental essays and materials. Read the fine print!
Regular Decision is a standard, non-binding application plan and the most common. Open to all students who may apply to as many schools as they wish, applications are typically due late December through mid-February, depending on the school. Acceptance letters go out by the first week in April.
Early Decision is a term used to describe binding early application to one school. Students may apply to only one school Early Decision. If accepted, the student must attend that school. Early Decision applications are due November 1st or 15th and students are notified by mid-December. Early Decision is recommended for students whose junior year grades are indicative of who they are as a scholar, whose standardized tests are complete and who don’t want to compare financial aid packages.
Early Action is a non-binding, early application for students who aren’t necessarily committed to attending one school, but want to increase their chances of getting admitted to one or more schools. Early Action applications are due November 1st or 15th and students are notified by mid-December.
Rolling Admissions policies allow students to apply within a large window of time. The admissions cycle is open -- first come, first served. Rolling Admissions is a common practice at larger state colleges and community colleges.
Score Choice is a policy that lets students choose which test dates from their SAT Reasoning Test or SAT Subject Tests to send to colleges. This is a new policy from The College Board, and relatively few schools honor it thus far.
Test Optional is a program at 800 schools wherein applicants have the option not to submit their SAT or ACT test scores. Those schools can be found at www.FairTest.org.
Need Blind Admissions is an application review process without consideration of an applicant’s financial need. This is considered to be the fairest way of admitting students. The opposite would be need-sensitive admissions, where an applicant’s ability to afford the school can sway an admission committee’s decision.
Comparison of Application Plans
|Binding?||Compare Financial Aid?||Typical Application Deadline||Typical Notification|
|Early Decision I||Yes||No||Nov. 1st or 15th||Mid-Dec.|
|Early Decision II||Yes||No||Late Dec.- Mid-Feb.||Feb. or March|
|Early Action||No||Yes||Nov. 1st or 15th||Mid-Dec.|
|Restrictive Early Action||No||Yes||Nov. 1st||Mid-Dec.|
|Regular Decision||No||Yes||Late Dec.- Mid-Feb.||1st week in April|
|Rolling Admission||No||Yes||N/A||Within months of submitting application|
Dr. Cohen advises that every college-bound student begin the application process by creating a college wish list. She recommends students apply to 10 to 12 colleges which includes “reach, target and safety” schools that are a good fit academically, socially and financially. “Don’t choose a school based solely on its perceived prestige or published rankings,” she cautions.
Although applying early may not be for everyone, it does give students an advantage in some cases. IvyWise’s data shows that students applying early to several selective schools have a higher chance of acceptance.
2009 Acceptance Rates for Selective U.S. Colleges and Universities
|University of Pennsylvania||17%||32%|
Recognized for its expertise, impressive results and collaborative counseling approach, IvyWise is an eleven-year-old comprehensive independent educational consulting company located in New York City. Founder and CEO, Dr. Katherine Cohen (named America’s Superstar Independent College Counselor) and her team of former Ivy-League admissions officers work one-on-one with students worldwide to make informed decisions as they seek admission to the college of their choice. IvyWise provides expert advice to students and parents on school placement, college admissions and financial aid. For more information about IvyWise, please visit www.IvyWise.com.
ApplyWise is an affordable online college admissions counseling program, developed by Dr. Cohen and her IvyWise team of counselors, that includes interactive online counseling modules and organizing tools to give parents and students everything they need to master the college admissions process. For more information about ApplyWise, please visit www.applywise.com.