Ready for early round results? Here’s what to expect

Ready for early round results? Here’s what to expect

After months of toiling away at applications, students who submitted applications to schools for Early Action and Early Decision are just weeks if not days away from receiving news from their first college(s). It can, understandably, be a nerve-wracking time. As counselors, we know that the waiting can sometimes be more difficult than completing the applications themselves. To keep perspective, we remind students that they’ve done everything that they can do and now must allow the colleges to do the challenging work of selection. 

In the early rounds, such as Early Action (EA), Restrictive Early Action (REA) and Early Decision (ED), there are three potential outcomes: Admit, Defer & Deny.

Admit – To be admitted early is often a euphoric experience! Even if it was not from an ED application, getting that first acceptance is a psychological triumph for students who now know for sure: “I’m going to college!” If this admit is from an ED application, students should accept their place for enrollment and follow their obligation to withdraw all other applications to any other university immediately, typically any RD applications that have already been submitted. Students should include EA applications where they haven’t yet received a decision as well – it may be that the outcome was already decided and they will still receive a response, but it may arrive in time to open a space for someone else (imagine if that were you!). For students who applied for financial aid at their ED school, be sure to review your package carefully with your parents and contact the Financial Aid office right away if you have any questions or concerns. This should be the only reason to delay enrollment or to withdraw other applications for any amount of time. Admits in EA and REA have no such commitment and may wait until the national response deadline of May 1 to make their decision of which school will be their final choice.

Defer – Getting deferred in the early rounds can be a bit confusing and a variety of other emotions for students. Typically, this result means that a student’s application will be re-reviewed in Regular Decision so they are still being considered for a place at the university. In a few cases, a student may also have the option to roll into the Early Decision 2 pool. This involves the same type of commitment as Early Decision and therefore requires careful consideration. These decisions are usually released in February, at least a full month ahead of regular decision results and an expectation that all other applications will be withdrawn immediately if admitted. For some students, knowing they are still in the running at one of their top choices can feel good, but for some not having a final decision can be frustrating. They also often wonder what this result really says for their chances ultimately at the end of the process, and that can vary by college. Several highly selective colleges defer a significant number of their early applicants ( think 30%) to the RD pool each year, rendering any interpretation of said result meaningless. On the other hand, many colleges do try to keep their defer pool slim so that students can feel confident that the college really does plan to consider them seriously in the next round. Being deferred also typically means a student’s work is not done. They must submit their mid-year or first semester grades, which are a requirement at every school but of course hold more weight for applications still under review. Additionally, many colleges expect to hear from the student directly about their continued interest in the college and any updates since the time of their original application. Some provide a form for students to complete; in other cases, students should submit a short letter. These steps ensure that a college knows a student is still interested in being considered after the early rounds. Talk to your counselor about the appropriate next steps for the specific college(s) where this applies to you!

Deny – It’s important for students to know that in this highly competitive world of college admission, decisions don’t always go the way they wished. It’s easy to say when you are not the applicant, but these decisions are not personal, despite how much they feel so. While we won’t have clear statistics until the dust has settled, each year, application numbers to the most popular colleges rise even while the number they can admit stays the same, so the process continues to become more selective. The highly selective colleges, droves of excellent students and human beings are rejected simply because there isn’t space for all of them. Very fine hairs are split and sometimes wholly unexpected characteristics are considered or valued over others depending on the college’s enrollment goals that year. Keep in mind that at selective colleges, the admissions team is constructing a class in the way one might build an orchestra – some years they really need flautists, other years they don’t and so on. These decisions are the toughest to process, but it simply means that a student is meant to flourish elsewhere.

Tips for parents & students when it comes to admission decisions:

Open your decision at home or somewhere where you have the privacy or support you may need. Avoid opening your decision at school or in public places.

Parents: consider how you can model how to process rejection, but also how to celebrate with consideration for others.

Students: share your news, good, bad or in-between, with care. Your friends and classmates are going through similar journeys – be supportive of one another.

There is no one path to success! Whether you land on the path you planned, or you are being pushed to chart a new one, embrace it and lean into the adventure ahead!

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