When is the best time to apply to college?

Received a comment wondering about how soon students can apply for college (the question was actually just about Mason, but I’ll include other schools as well).

This seems a bit nutty to me, but the theory is that if colleges can get you to apply earlier they can hit you with EVEN MORE MARKETING and thereby have a better chance of convincing you they ARE THE BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD. As a result, there is something of an arms race of colleges trying to get you to apply earlier and ealier in the process. Some schools will even take your application during your junior year of high school. Others will accept over the summer before your senior year (which makes the high schools, and the applicants, somewhat frustrated as the student starts getting letters saying, “we need your transcript,” while the high schools are closed. I believe this is part of the effort to see if students can handle that institution’s red tape).

This theory also fed what was a frenzy of schools adding early decision programs, where you could apply early in your senior year if you PROMISED you would go to that school if that school offered you admission. Fortunately there has been some backlash against trying to get you to commit before you have time to see MY marketing. I mean, before you have time to thoughtfully compare schools and consider your choices.

Most application deadlines are in early January or February of your senior year, but I generally discourage students from waiting until the last minute. On the other hand, I’m also not a proponent of rushing to get your applications in before anyone else. Every school posts their application deadlines, so check those out and try to submit your application at least a couple of weeks before whichever deadline makes sense for you. Mason, for instance, has three deadlines. November 1 is early action, meaning we’ll let you know our decision in December, but you have no obligation. December 1 is our deadline to be considered for admission AND scholarships, and January 15 is our final freshman application deadline. So if you want to know early, I encourage you to submit your application by mid-October, to be considered for scholarships to have it in by mid November, and to be considered at all to have it in before the New Year.

Deep down I want you to send it even earlier. That makes it easier on my processing staff, makes my numbers look good, etc. Honestly, however, that doesn’t necessarily do much for YOU. Summer is a great time to think about college options, to start work on some essays, maybe start to consider who will be willing to recommend you (without mentioning that embarassing incident at the pool last summer). Your actual applications, however, can wait until Fall. And remember, even if you apply somewhere early, the rest of the schools won’t know that, so we’ll still be sending you all of our lovely marketing materials to try and convince you to consider at least one more school – so you have that to look forward to…or not. Be seeing you.


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