Written by Alex Laredo, University of Virginia, College Contact Counselor
A naive college applicant overwhelmed by the amount of deadlines in the college application process, I ultimately applied early action to the University of Virginia because my older brother advised me on it. I didn’t really understand the differences at the time, but it relieved a lot of my stress to get one of my most important applications out of the way early in the process. I noticed that I had fewer regular decision applications to focus on, a shorter deadline to hear back from UVA which I appreciated, and a greater chance of getting into my top school because of the smaller applicant pool.
Applying to college is an incredibly stressful process, for more reasons than one. Tackling numerous applications, each with its unique set of requirements and deadlines can be complicated with organization. Not only can applications and dates get confused, but the sheer amount of schools that a lot of students need to apply to can cause unintentional procrastination. While I did procrastinate a lot of my regular decision applications, committing to applying early action allowed me to streamline my focus on my most important application. Applying early action essentially forced me to get a headstart on the UVA application process. I also found out what worked for me and what didn’t regarding how to handle certain supplementals and the process in general, which helped me be more efficient when it was time to focus more on my later deadlines. This meant I also had fewer future deadlines to worry about.
From a purely statistical standpoint, applying early decisions or early action is undoubtedly more advantageous than regular decisions. Both early decision and early action cycles enjoy greater acceptance rates on average across all schools, not just UVA. So, the main difference between early decision and early action is just the binding aspect of it. I chose early action over early decision because although I knew I wanted to end up at UVA, I still wanted to enjoy the process of hearing back from other schools and possibly even consider a different school if I decided to change my mind. With early decision, if one gets accepted and decides to not attend (which is a very rare case), it can reflect poorly on the high school of which they attended. Because of this, I still wanted to explore other options if I were to get in, so early action was the way to go. It is important to note that early decision applicants do have a slightly greater acceptance rate than early action applicants, so if you are 100% certain about your dream school and they have this option, I would advise that you go early decision to maximize your odds.
Students who apply early action in turn enjoy a shorter waiting period to receive a response about their admissions status. For some more than others, the anticipation and anxiety associated with college admissions can be excruciating, and the prospect of an earlier decision is undeniably appealing to all students. Submitting my application earlier gave me a sense of closure to the application process during my senior year, and I was able to focus a little more on other aspects of high school like successfully completing my final semesters and spending quality time with my friends. At the end of the day, this is your final year with your best friends before everyone goes on their own path. As important as college applications are, it is important to still remain present and do the best at the things that are in your control. I applied early action because my essays were ready and I wanted to hear back as soon as possible while still keeping my options open. Doing so allowed me to focus more on other applications, enjoy a greater chance of getting into my top school, and ultimately celebrate getting into college earlier instead of waiting nervously.