Not all students should apply early to college

Tribune Media Services

Here's some good news for procrastinators: Research suggests that there are benefits for some teens who don't apply early to college. While the data show that, yes, applicants who apply early are more likely to get acceptance letters, restrictive "early decision" applications come at a price for some. Here are the students who shouldn't apply for early decision:

Obviously underqualified. Research by Christopher Avery, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, found that applying early gave only a modest edge to students whose test scores, grades and other qualifications were slightly below the college's average. Significantly underqualified students were rejected no matter when they applied.

Obviously overqualified. Students who were slam-dunk candidates were admitted no matter when they applied, Avery found, so early applications can unnecessarily limit their options.

Reliant on financial aid. Students who get into several colleges get more aid than those who get into only one, research shows. While students can appeal financial aid offers, they'll likely have more bargaining power if they can leverage offers from competing schools. In fact, a growing number of colleges state publicly that they will consider matching financial aid offers from competing colleges.

Late bloomers. While many public colleges' regular admissions deadlines are as early as November, many other colleges accept admissions through the spring of senior year. Students who stumble academically as sophomores or juniors but recover in senior year need the extra time to prove to admissions officers (and themselves) that they can succeed in college.

The undecided. Few teens have clear career goals and a realistic understanding of what specific educational qualifications they want. "At the time they need to be preparing for college (many high schoolers) are just forming independent ideas about who they are and what interests them academically and socially," writes Barbara Schneider, an education professor at Michigan State University.

Those who delay the search until senior year. Students need time to understand themselves and the quirks of each college, Schneider says. Teens who start the search in senior year often don't have enough time to find a "perfect match" by early acceptance deadlines.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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