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The Pros and Cons of Applying Early to Ivy League Schools

Last week on the blog, we discussed whether using an early admissions option when applying to an Ivy League school is beneficial. Although many college admissions experts believe that students may have a greater chance of admission when applying through one of these plans, there are a number of pros and cons to consider, outlined below.

Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) vs. Early Decision

Single Choice Early Action is a non-binding admissions program in force at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and their non-Ivy peer Stanford. SCEA is also called Restrictive Early Action (REA) and the terms are often used interchangeably.

The primary characteristics of the program follow. Students may submit an application to ONLY ONE of these universities early under an SCEA or REA plan. They may not choose to apply to any other of the SCEA schools, any other school utilizing an Early Action (EA) plan (EA universities have no restriction on the number of schools to which you can apply early), or any other school utilizing an Early Decision (ED) plan (we’ll discuss ED schools below). There are some exceptions (e.g., Harvard allows students to apply Early Action to public or foreign universities).

In essence, a student can apply to only one school early under an SCEA plan. The applications normally need to be filed by November 1st and a decision will be rendered by mid-December. The decisions are either accept, reject or deferral to the regular admissions pool.  The DECISIONS ARE NON-BINDING, meaning that a student has until May 1st to notify the school whether they want to attend.

Early applications to the other Ivy League universities are done via Early Decision programs. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn all use the ED process. The primary difference between SCEA and ED programs are that the latter are BINDING. If you choose to apply to one of these schools ED and are admitted, you must attend that university.

Filing dates for ED schools are similar, as are admissions decisions. It is conventional wisdom that the Ivy League schools using the ED program are trying to capture some of the students who might otherwise go to the “Big Three” (Harvard, Yale and Princeton) or Stanford by restricting applicants via a binding program.

Pros of Applying Early to An Ivy League University

  • The college search and decision process can be completed by mid-December.
  • The mystery of not knowing where you’re going can be alleviated, leading to reduced stress and a much more pleasant second semester of senior year.
  • Admit rates, as we previously discussed, are much higher than during the Regular Decision cycle.
  • If you’re applying to one of the SCEA schools, you need not accept admissions to the college you’ve applied to early.

Cons of Applying Early to An Ivy League University

  • As mentioned above, you have a much shorter time frame to put together a winning application to your dream college. Prior to November 1st, your Common Application and supplemental essays need to be perfected. You may not have time to demonstrate your best effort.
  • Your stress level might be heightened given the shortened deadline.
  • If you are rejected, you will undoubtedly be very disappointed. This can be disheartening as you complete your other applications and color your feelings as you wait for admissions decisions in the regular cycle.
  • If you apply Early Decision, you are bound to that school if accepted. You will not be able to evaluate other schools, nor potential financial aid packages.
  • If you apply SCEA, you cannot apply to other schools early.

IvySelect College Admissions Counselors Can Guide You On Whether You Should Apply Early To An Ivy League University

As you can see, the process is complex and hard decisions need to be made about when and whether to apply early to an Ivy League school. IvySelect’s expert college consultants can help you decide which route is right for you. Based on your profile, we will look into the nuances of your unique situation to help you decide whether to apply ED, SCEA or RD.

Should you decide to apply early to one of the Ivies or another top school, IvySelect college counselors will keep you on track, so that the effort you set forth will truly reflect your abilities. As college application specialists we will make certain that you submit polished documents.We will provide you with the superior college essay help you need in a shortened time line, so that your essays will give you a competitive edge in the admissions process. If you decide to apply early, IvySelect will be of invaluable help.

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