Just this week at San Ramon Valley High School we voted for our "Senior Superlatives." The week before we bought our cap-and-gown. Around mid-December, students will start hearing back from colleges for those who applied Early Decision/Early Action. But I look outside and it doesn't remotely seem like graduation time yet, much less spring, much less summer. Far from it.
At San Ramon, there are around 40 students applying Early Decision/Early Action this year - a roughly twofold increase from last year's number. For these students, anxiety and tension, of course, hang in the air. Most want the college application process to just be over with so that they can enjoy the rest of senior year. For some, their "dream school" is now on the line. All fear the infamously "thin" letter of rejection. Decisions might come in the mail before December 15 - there is simply no way of knowing.
Most of the deadlines for early options were at the beginning of November. Students scrambled to put together their applications before then, getting their test scores and transcripts in, revising their personal essays, and securing their letters of recommendation in this hectic time. Most found that the stress of high school didn't make way for the stress of the college application process. Those who apply early also tend to be enrolled in rigorous AP and honors courses and must find ways to balance the additional workload.
It was mentioned before that there is a growing pressure to apply early. And yes, more students are indeed applying early in these uncertain times, although not just for financial purposes. Record number of students applied to college last year, even in the midst of the recession. Even more students overall are expected to apply to college this year. As college admissions become more competitive, high school seniors naturally look to ED/EA to increase their chances of acceptance.
At selective schools, the acceptance rate for early applicants has generally been higher than the acceptance rate for regular admission. Many students look at this as one major advantage of early options. However, if you take my school as an example, those who apply ED/EA are generally motivated enough to get their applications in early and serious candidates in general. In addition, binding Early Decision students are committed to attending the school they apply to. This is the school they want to attend and will spend the most time and energy gaining admission to. In other words, the acceptance for for early options might be higher, but you are putting yourself in a more competitive pool of students at the same time.
I didn't take the Early Decision/Early Action route myself. There never was a college that I was locked into going to and that was my main reason for not going in the ED direction. Like most students (though less and less so) I wanted to shop around financially and decision-wise come spring. For non-binding Early Action, simply none of the schools I wanted to apply to offer that option. In addition, I had the feeling that early options were just too early for me. It would be reassuring to know where I'd go to college from December, but then I might actually have to contend with "senioritis" for the next six months. And six months can be a long time. In March and April when most of my classmates hear from colleges, I wouldn't be able to take part in the ups and downs of the senior year experience in quite the same way. Sometimes it's worth living with uncertainty for a while, if only to make certain the days I have left here are some of my best.
While I don't the have advantage of hindsight in judging the road to college, all the excitement, anxiety, disappointment, and happiness that high school holds - these emotions we share. I've said it before and I'll say it again, remember, there's more to you than your college application. Good luck!
The Teen Wire provides a perspective on today's youth, in the face of a changing world. Daniel Morizono, a senior at San Ramon Valley High School and news editor of the Wolfprint can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.