November will soon be here—and so will early decision deadlines. Current high school seniors who have established connections with college coaches should have narrowed their lists to a few institutions, or even to just one.
But you don't have to commit in November if you're not ready.
You basically have three options in the college application process. You can:
1) Apply early decision or early action
2) Apply under rolling decision
3) Apply in the regular decision pool of applicants
Your application decision depends primarily on your readiness and comfort level, as well as on the nature and status of your recruiting process.
Early decision is a viable option for prospects who are ready to commit. It is binding, so if you are accepted, you are obligated to enroll. Early action is non-binding, giving you more flexibility.
Your choice to apply early decision should be based on proactive communication with the coach, who should have completed a thorough evaluation. (College coaches often encourage prospects to commit early in an effort to wrap up recruiting and outdistance their competitors.) If you apply early decision, you should have a strong sense of how you stand with the school from both an academic and athletic standpoint.
Typically, early applications are due on or around Nov. 1 of your senior year. If everything works well, you will be accepted and will matriculate next fall. On the other hand, if you are not accepted, you will be free to apply to other schools via regular decision. Early decision and early action applicants find out whether they have been accepted in mid- to late December or early January of their senior year.
Rolling decision gives you the opportunity to get your application in for an early read by Admissions without being forced to commit. Simply stated, the sooner your application is received, the sooner you receive a decision from Admissions.
Regular decision applications are suitable for those who have not yet found their "perfect fit," or who don't want to commit to just one school. This pool is typically the largest. Applications are due on or around Jan. 1. You'll be notified about your admission status typically by mid-April of your senior year.
Regardless of which application process you choose, here are a few tips for figuring out your ideal school:
- Exploration. The launch phase of every college search effort includes a strong information-gathering component. By navigating academic and athletic websites, you begin to grow an appreciation for the different "flavors" that colleges offer.
- Proactive Communication. Once you get a feel for each institution and determine your favorites, create a detailed contact list of the schools' coaches. Use regular and precise communication to get on their radar and build momentum.
- Evaluation. College coaches are swamped with administrative tasks and team commitments. It will serve you well to assist the coach by providing an accurate student-athlete evaluation—such as a personal profile, portfolio or link to your YouTube highlight video. Providing coach with easy to access, yet compelling information can go a long way.
The landscape of college athletics has changed over the past 10 years, and so has the recruiting process. As the level of competition rises, early decision options are becoming more popular. Creating a well-defined recruiting plan and executing it proactively and passionately will give you a clear edge over others and position you to determine the right and best admission option moving forward.
Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications.
Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.
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