Is Early Decision Application An Anxiety Reliever or Booster?

3 Ways to Reduce College Application Season Stress

Applying to college Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) may seem like the cure-all for what ails your senior, but the SUBMIT button shouldn’t be pressed hastily. Sure, there’s often an immediate euphoria from uploading essays and getting the process started, and, for students who have a strong “this is the school for me” feeling, early decision application is an excellent option. But for the majority of students who didn’t “fall in love” with a singular school during their campus visits and late-night website tours, Regular Decision (RD) is a perfectly respectable choice. Actually, for these students, it’s the only way to go.

Anecdote: I just spoke with a student who’s paralyzed with indecision. She’s in the grip of deadlines that, instead of feeling like a Call to Arms, feels like a ticking bomb. My assessment? She’s a RD applicant. When I said this to her, she looked ashamed as if she had somehow failed the College Application Process by a) not committing to one — and only one — school by now and b) not having finished her application essays. She said that she can envision herself being happy and receiving a good education from all of the schools on her carefully curated list. And she’s right. She’s in an excellent position to receive many offers of acceptance from top schools that would be honored to have her in their community.

ED and/or EA isn’t for every student, and it isn’t always the panacea for college application anxiety. It’s an option, one of four or five if you count Rolling and Single Choice ED, for students to entertain as they navigate the next couple of months. When pondering the early submission option, here are few items to consider:

Gaming the System

Some students have decided that their chances of gaining admittance to a “good school” increase if they apply ED. At some schools, some years, maybe yes. That’s quite a few qualifiers. Bottom line: If you don’t love a school and you’re not 100% prepared to go if accepted, don’t apply ED.

I’m Not In Love

Few students are. Most want the process over and are “in like” enough with a school to commit their minds and dollars to it. Passion doesn’t necessarily dictate where a student will receive a good education and make meaningful friendships and connections with students, professors, coaches and mentors. Students should trust their feelings, even if those feelings advise them to wait and apply RD.


A small percentage of my students were ready to hit the ED button in August. It was the “you had me from hello” moment that’s iconic when it happens to you and is meaningless when it doesn’t. One student says, “I just knew. It was a sense I got when I walked onto the campus. I need to go to that school.” Call it magic, kismet, juju. These students are ready to commit themselves to four years of monogamy and, even if their chance of acceptance at their beloved school is low, they have no other choice. They’re in love.

The good news? There’re different application options for different students. What’s the sure way to relieve stress in these last few weeks when your senior’s burning the midnight hours? I’ve got some ideas. Give me a holler at 917-863-2424 or drop me a line at