The (Dis)advantage of Being First to Submit A College Application

Here's the truth of the application review process...
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Seniors across the country are racing to be among the first students to submit their applications to top colleges. However, there is no advantage. Many seniors hold the false belief that colleges will have more time to review their application the earlier they submit it. In reality, most colleges do not review any applications until after the deadline--and even then, they do not review them in the order they were received.

Here's the truth of the application review process:

1. College admissions officers are busy in the fall.

Fall is a busy season for college admissions officers, as their first priority is to recruit as many talented students as possible to their college. In August, September, and October, they are traveling across the country visiting high schools, attending college fairs, and hosting recruitment programs on their campuses. Thus, college admissions officers will not be sitting at their desks reviewing college applications.

2. Colleges want to see the entire applicant pool, first.

It is impossible for colleges to make informed admission decisions until they have an understanding of the entire applicant pool. For example, is the college receiving more or less applications than last year? Is the average academic profile (test scores, GPAs, AP classes, etc.) higher or lower? What different backgrounds, experiences, and interests do the applicants represent? There are many important questions to be answered before an admissions office can set the year's expectations, which is necessary to determine the competitiveness of an individual applicant.

3. Admissions officers often review applications in alphabetical order.

Today, nearly all colleges use computer systems to electronically review applications. After applications are categorized by region and high school, the system generally sorts applicants alphabetically by their last name. Whether a student was first or last to apply to the college is either unknown or not considered as long as the deadline was met.

4. Colleges set fair evaluation procedures.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, colleges work tirelessly to establish fair and equal evaluation procedures for all applicants. Therefore, college admissions offices ensure each applicant is given equal consideration -- giving no student, no matter how early, an additional advantage. In almost all situations, applicants are reviewed collectively after the college's deadline.

As you can see, rushing to be among the first applicants to a college has no advantage, and in many cases, it can harm a student's outcomes due to an increase chance for mistakes and errors.

Rather than hastily completing applications, students should take their time and complete thoughtful applications with as few errors as possible. It is a strong application, after all, that offers the greatest chance of acceptance--not how fast but how well!

If you are interested in more helpful tips to complete your applications, check out our blog.

Drusilla Blackman is affiliated with The Ivy Dean, Inc., an independent college consulting firm.

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