This is a segment of Bautis Financial’s college planning series, which includes webinars, podcast episodes, blog posts and downloadables to aid college-bound students and families in the admissions process. Visit our college planning hub for more valuable resources.
In many cases, applying early to college can give you an edge.
Studies have shown that by demonstrating a preference for a particular college by submitting an early application, prospective students can boost their standing, which goes a long way in the hyper-competitive world of college admissions.
But students need to act soon: Whether it’s early action (nonbinding) or early decision (binding), the deadlines for these types of applications are typically November 1st or November 15th for a December decision, or even earlier for rolling admission.
Despite the possibility of improving your odds of acceptance, there are other factors to consider, especially when it comes to financial aid.
With cost now the number one factor when choosing a college of a lot of families, it’s usually the early bird who benefits, because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds.
But pledging to one institution would mean forgoing to chance to compare different packages from other schools…
1. You Can’t Compare Financial Aid Packages When You Apply Early Decision
When you choose ED, you apply to just one college for early decision in the fall. In doing so, you agree to attend that school if you get in.
With this approach, you won’t get the chance to compare financial aid packages — you’ll have just one offer. So, you’ll need to either take out student loans or break your binding agreement and choose not to attend that school.
Fortunately, students can usually turn down an ED offer if the financial aid is insufficient. But once you turn down admission, your offer disappears. You’ll never get to see how the financial aid from your dream school compared with that from the other colleges on your list.
So, for students who absolutely need financial aid, applying early is a risky option.
2. You Might Not Get Merit-Based Scholarships
If you have your heart set on a particular school, applying early decision is one of the best ways to show your enthusiasm. But colleges don’t have as much incentive to award merit-based scholarships to ED applicants.
Most colleges use merit aid to attract great students, and it is not necessary for colleges to offer merit aid to students applying ED, as they have already committed to the institution if accepted.
3. You Might Still Be Waiting to Hear From Scholarship Organizations
Along with financial aid, you’re probably pursuing scholarships to help lower the cost of college. The problem is some scholarship organizations don’t notify students of their awards until the spring of their senior year.
With ED, you must accept a school’s offer well in advance of the typical May 1 decision day. For low-income students, this deadline might be too rushed to make a final decision on college.
So, if you’re relying on scholarship money to assist in paying for your college education, applying early decision might not be a smart financial move.
Related: How to Cut The Cost of College
Begin your journey of mastering the college admissions process with Bautis Financial. Whether you’re a parent or guardian, student or school counselor, book a free consultation to discuss how our financial advisors can be a college planning resource.