Early Action: Is It Your Gateway to Merit Aid?

A doorwayLazy summer days will soon linger behind us, and it’s especially difficult to push away the insistent demon of procrastination, whispering in your ear, “You have months to apply for college and the school year hasn’t even begun. Why start worrying about it now?”¬† You may want to flick the little pest away and remind yourself that preparing for Early Action will not only bump your name up the list of applicants, but also may be necessary for merit aid consideration.

Early Action? What About Early Decision?

Several terms are thrown around during application time, but for now, we’ll focus on Early Action (EA).¬† Basically, Early Decision (ED) forces you to agree to a college choice immediately upon acceptance.¬† Do this if there’s a definitive choice that’s your #1 and you’ll accept without even the slightest hesitation.¬† For a less rigid strategy, go for EA.¬† It carries all the same benefits of ED, but it’s non-binding, meaning you don’t have to attend automatically if accepted.¬† You subject yourself to less stress and lend more wiggle room to pick and choose.

Positives & Negatives

As with anything else, you’ll encounter benefits as well as drawbacks of applying early.¬† Here’s a few of each to mull over:

+ Higher chance of acceptance (some EA rates have been as high as 80%).
+ Less time and stress submitting a ton of applications.
+ Allows you to prepare ahead for your college journey once accepted early.
+ Some institutions (such as Purdue U. and U. of South Carolina) package EA with merit aid, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on free funding.

– Less opportunity to compare financial aid options.
– Students accepted early may fall to “senioritis” and slack off their last year.
– EA = Early deadlines (usually October or November), which leave you less time to prepare if procrastinating.

Don’t Let Merit Aid Slip Away!

Double-check your top choices to see whether or not they require an EA application for merit aid consideration.¬† Tulane University is a perfect example of this restriction for EA full-tuition merit aid scholarships.¬† Explicitly tacked onto each full-tuition scholarship is the requirement of an EA submission.¬† Sure, partial merit aid is nice, but wouldn’t you much rather grab full-tuition if offered?

Bottom line: forego EA and especially ED if your student’s college compass is pointing in all directions. ¬†If they do have a clear sense dedicated to one school or even a few, take a look into EA and ED.¬† You wouldn’t want to miss out on the holy grail of full-tuition scholarships by passing on EA.¬† They can always change their mind if accepted to more than one college, so it may be time to push away indecision and whittle down their top college list.

Westface College Planning helps navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can minimize college cost, call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Justin Kern

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