Applying to college early can lend you an advantage in college admissions. All else being equal, most schools admit a larger percentage of early applicants than of regular applicants. But this doesn’t mean that ALL students will be better off applying early! Read on for four signs you should not apply early to college.
You’re not too sure about that GPA.
If you’re worried about your GPA and you’re doing well in your fall semester classes, then you might be better off waiting to apply regular decision so that these grades show up on your application. This is especially true if:
- your fall semester grades could increase your cumulative GPA by more than 0.1 (for instance, from a 2.9 to a 3.0).
- your fall semester grades show continued growth and improvement compared with some of your early semesters.
As we’ve said before, a bad GPA doesn’t mean you won’t go to college. Colleges look at your performance over time, so if your grades were pretty bad until junior year, and then you buckled down and started doing better, another semester showing a pattern of improvement will give you a nice boost to your college admissions chances—probably a much bigger boost than you might get from applying early.
You need one more shot at hitting your SAT or ACT goal.
If you’re still disappointed by your SAT or ACT scores, you might want to hold off on applying early. With enough work, you could still bring those scores up given another shot at the test—and waiting until January to send in your applications gives you a couple more test dates to choose from.
If you fall into this camp, here are some things to keep in mind:
- The colleges you’re applying to might super score. When colleges super score, they look at your highest section scores from multiple test dates. If the schools you’re applying to super score, you can maximize your score by focusing all of your test prep efforts on one section at a time. Hit your math score goal on one test date and your verbal score goal on another, and then you’ll have the overall score you’ve been dreaming of.
- ACT or SAT prep is the fastest way to boost your admissions chances. By senior year, your cumulative GPA is already pretty set—there’s not a lot you can do to move the needle. Test prep is different. With enough work and the right support, you could potentially increase your test scores by a pretty big margin in just a couple months. So if you’re worried about your test scores, remember: They’re a lot easier to change than the rest of your application.
You just realized you need SAT Subject Test scores.
If you’re applying to colleges that recommend SAT Subject Tests but you didn’t take SAT Subject Tests already, don’t apply early. Colleges that recommend SAT Subject Tests definitely want to see those test scores—it’s less of a friendly suggestion and more of a requirement that you need extenuating circumstances to get out of. (Learn about SAT Subject Test policies here.)
Your application is going to look a lot better with those recommended test scores even if that means missing early deadlines. Need to learn more about these tests? Check out our Complete Guide to SAT Subject Tests.
Your essays could be better.
If your essays have room for improvement, do not do early college applications. Instead of sending in an essay that you know could be better, wait. Make sure your essay is perfect and apply regular decision.
In the meantime, check out these essay resources:
- How to Write a College Essay that Stands Out
- Top 5 College Application Essay Clichés
- On the Bright Side: My Bad College Essay
Only apply early if your application is already as perfect as it can be.
Applying early only boosts your chances for admission if your application is already perfect. Submitting an application that you know you could improve will NOT help you get into your dream college!
Is your application already good to go? Great! Here are some last minute things you can do to boost that application.