Is Early Admission a Good Idea?

It’s a great way to let colleges know they’re you’re first choice, but depending on what kind of school you apply to, your financial aid could be affected.

If waiting around until the Spring of your child’s senior year in high school to find out where they’ll be attending college, doesn’t sound like a picnic to you… then early admission may be perfect for you.

You can start planning your student’s college career earlier, avoid the stress of the waiting game and in some cases secure a healthier chance of admission by applying early.

Schools want students who want them.  Early applications are one of the strongest ways to show a university that your child is serious about attending there.

However before you drop that early application in the mailbox, you should know there are some potential pitfalls to go along with the advantages of early acceptance.

About 2/3 of universities offer some sort of early admission option.  The first thing it’s important to understand is that these options usually fall into one of two categories – Early Decision and Early Action.

Here’s a brief rundown on what’s good, what’s bad, and what you might not know about each type of school.

Early Decision Schools

What’s Good: You can assure yourself of a stress-free Spring semester and allow your child a lengthy prep time for their new school.  This gives them a chance to plot out their course load and living situation far sooner than other students.

What’s Not So Good: Once you apply to an early decision school, you’re not allowed to apply early to any other schools and if you’re accepted you’re required to attend (technically, see below…).

What’s You Might Not Know: Acceptance CAN be appealed by a family if the school does not offer them enough financial aid to make the college affordable.  If the school cannot meet the family’s needs, then and only then you can withdraw your child’s acceptance without a penalty.

Early Action Schools

What’s Good: With early action schools, you’re allowed to apply early to other schools and unlike early decision schools, your acceptance does NOT lock you in for attendance.

What’s Not So Good: Early applications often mean you’re competing against the cream of the crop and therefore admission standards can be cutthroat and higher than usual.  Be prepared and if you need to use the first semester of senior year to improve your profile, it’s best to wait until the general admission period.

What You Might Not Know: If you’re not accepted early, most early action schools will defer your application to the regular applicant pool, giving you a second chance at getting in.

Of course, the major point of emphasis for most people visiting is how to pay for college.  And early admissions schools bring a different set of circumstances to this concern.

As I mentioned earlier, early decision schools require you to attend that school if you’re accepted… UNLESS you simply can’t afford to pay for the school.

However, in a New York Times editorial, Frank J. Massa, Vice President of Communications at Lafayette College, offered two reasons why financial aid is sometimes easier to get for qualified enrollees at early decision schools.

1) Colleges do not deplete their financial aid budgets during early decision.

2) Colleges do not want students to withdraw for financial reasons. Because of that, they will do all they can to make the price affordable.

The bottom line is, early decision schools do offer you more wiggle room and opportunity for financial assistance than they first appear to.  But if you’re intent on comparing what schools will offer you what when it comes to aid, these schools are not the way to go.

In contrast, with early action schools financial aid doesn’t play as much of a roll in the process.  This is because you can apply to as many early action schools as you want, be accepted and then “shop around” for the best aid package without any penalty.

So you see, there is a difference in how you can apply for early admission.  Depending on your child’s commitment to one particular school and your financial means, it’s up to you which type of school you should apply to.

Do your research before submitting that application and make sure you choose the right school for your particular circumstances,

Early or otherwise, good luck with your application!  Follow this link for more insights into the college admissions process.

Kind Regards,

Scott Weingold

Related Articles:

Early Decision vs. Early Action

When Should Seniors Apply for College

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.