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Early action applications make up a sizable percentage of all college admission decisions. In the past, Black students have submitted early action applications at a significantly lower rate than white students; however, a report published several years ago in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education found that students have slowly begun to recognize the advantages that come with the early decision process. Still, disparities linger. Here’s what you need to know about early admission. 

Early action vs early decision

According to the College Board, “Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1.” Students who will base their decision to attend an institution on how much financial aid the school offers would benefit more from early action plans. 

Racial disparities in early admission plans

Students have the ability to submit college applications as early as August leading up to their senior year. Unfortunately, students of color often don’t submit their applications until late winter.

“Applications are available as early as August 1st,”  said Dr. Makeda Turner,  Owner of Essence 4 Success Consulting, LLC – an Academic Coaching Business. “I’ll be honest, our students of color do not apply until after the holidays. That puts us at a disadvantage.”

Why early admission matters

When it comes to college applications, the concept of first come, first served holds more weight than many might believe. With a wealth of qualified applicants submitting their applications, the early bird often gets the worm and the better financial aid package.

“The application deadline is typically February 1st and by that time, colleges have already made their decisions. That money may already be gone. You really need to make sure that you’re applying early on to put your self in the best position to be admitted and also if you’re interested in financial aid,” Dr. Turner advised.

Although students don’t often think of it this way, it’s possible for financial aid to run out. “A college only budgets out so much money and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Dr. Turner said. “People don’t realize the implications of not applying early like that funding aspect. Financial aid runs out of money. Absolutely. They’re also funding the students that they currently have.”

Closing the gap

To increase their chances of acceptance and getting more attractive financial aid packages, students should have their paperwork in order and be ready to submit applications by October of their senior year.

“By October 1st you should know whats going on and those essays should be typed and ready to go,” said Dr. Turner. 

To make senior year less overwhelming, they can begin writing their essays and collecting letters of recommendation as early as junior year. In order to get students excited and to make the application process a little more painless later down the road, Dr. Turner recommends loved ones begin exposing students to various institutions as early as middle school.

“It’s important to get them on college campuses so that you can get them to see themselves being in this type of environment,” she advised. “They should look at different programs that are available.”

When it comes to college admission, when you apply can be just as important as where you apply.

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