Pitfalls that can come from early responses
November 1 marked the start of the college application deadline season. Some students who applied for November 1 Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) deadlines may start to see acceptances, rejections or waitlist responses as early as the end of the month.
This raises two important obstacles that applicants tend to be blindsided by every year:
- Early Success: Accepted EA before December, and so they slack off pursuing all their options. Early acceptances should be motivating. They are a sign that you’ve got something that colleges want. However, unless your EA acceptance has also offered you a 100% scholarship on tuition, room and board, there is still room for you to get a better aid or scholarship offer from your potential December 1 or 15 EA or regular decision (RD) applications. Don’t let early success make you complacent. Get those applications in, get them done with the same high level of quality that your first application was, and get the chance to make the best-informed choice among a pool of acceptance offers.
- Early Rejections: Rejections at this early stage discourage some seniors from being optimistic about their other applications. Many students send ED and EA applications to schools well outside their match profile, treating selective admissions like a lottery, where everyone who buys a ticket has the same chance to win. When that super-selective school rejects them, they lose confidence even in their applications to the more appropriately matched college choices. They might stop actively tailoring their essays to the rest of the schools on their list, and ignore demonstrating in their applications how well matched they really are. They may flub their way through interviews, or shut down academically and give up on their first term grades (one of the main tools used by admissions officers in their assessments of RD applicants). That early ED or EA rejection from a super-selective school causes them to self-sabotage the rest of their college list.
So, how can you avoid these pitfalls?
If you did approached ED/EA like the Powerball® lottery, try to see the rejection letter the same way. It’s just a losing lottery ticket, pure chance. It is not a reflection on your worth, likelihood of college success or chances of admission elsewhere.
If your ED rejection was from a school that you and your counselors feel you are actually a strong match for, then take a hard look at your application materials and see how you can adapt them to better showcase your strengths and your match for the remaining schools on your list. Is your essay authentic and revealing, in your own voice, engaging, honest? Hire a professional to give you advise if it might be too formal, too choppy, or even just too typical. Work on your activity summaries to make them about YOU and not about the whole group. Get strong first term grades and submit them with your RD apps. Call or email the admissions office and confirm your interest personally. In other words, even though November can feel like the end of the push towards admissions, it’s really just another step along the way. Approach December and January deadlines as enthusiastically as you did the early deadlines. Be Strong!