College Application Terminology

Regardless of where you are in the college admissions process, there are some basic aspects of the application process you should know about. Here are some definitions that may help you better understand what you’re doing.

Early Decision – an option that allows you to apply early (usually in November) to your clear first-choice college. You pledge to attend if accepted. If you’re a competitive candidate, you stand a better chance to be admitted under Early Decision.

Early Action – similar to Early Decision in timing (November due date for applications) but nonbinding. If you are accepted, you do not have to enroll and you may take until May 1 to decide. Primarily an option offered by Ivy League schools, Early Action is fading in its popularity due to the move by colleges to seek an enrollment commitment from their applicants. Acceptance percentage is higher than that of regular-decision pool.

Personal Statement – also known as the application essay. Personal statements are usually required by schools that are competitive, also known as selective. That means the schools don’t admit everyone who applies. The essay is used by admissions committees to learn more about their applicants. Personal statements are great opportunities to shine, if you’re a good writer. They can create anxiety in less-than-confident students, however.