Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Regular Decision: Which is Right for You?

No Comments 07 September 2016

Application season is officially under way, which means one of the first decisions students make after creating their college list is whether or not an early decision or early action option is right for them.   While these may sound similar, they actually have different advantages and disadvantages that should be carefully considered before applying through one of these options.

Early Decision

Early decision is the most binding option through which to apply to a college—this means students are required to attend if they are accepted.  For this reason, students only apply to one college with early decision and must withdraw any other regular-decision applications if they’re accepted to an ED school.

If you’re a student who has done their research and you are 100% certain that you want to attend a particular institution, early decision can be a way to get your materials in early and know if you are accepted long before the college’s usual notification date.   You’ll get the peace of mind of knowing your admissions decision, but for many students this is a stressful option as it limits the time you’ll have to do research into other institutions by committing to a college much earlier than you would with an early action or regular decision option.   Students who apply through early decision are also committing to attending an institution without the ability to compare financial aid packages from other colleges, which can be a disadvantage if finances are a big concern for you and your family.

If you’re choosing an early decision option, you should also make sure the school is aligned with your current academic performance and make sure you have a solid chance of getting accepted.  Logging in to your College Greenlight profile (or creating an account if you don’t have one) and completing your profile will allow you to take advantage of our “What Are My Chances?” calculator that may give you an idea how you stack up to other applicants who have been accepted in the past.

It’s also important to note that while applying ED may demonstrate a commitment to a school that can give an edge to students who are on the fence for admissions, those whose application materials make them a stretch candidate usually won’t find applying through ED will change an institution’s decision.

Early Action

Perhaps the biggest difference between early action and early decision is that early action is non-binding and students can apply early action to more than one school, as well as submit applications for regular decision deadlines.  Students applying with early action should still feel strongly about their match and fit for the particular college, and, like the ED option, have done their research ahead of time.

Early action students will have until May 1st, the national response date, to make their decision.  Through early action, students will also have the option to compare different financial aid offers, though they may not be prepared when they receive their earlier letter of acceptance.

Regular Decision

Most students will apply through the regular decision process, which means you’ll apply by a school’s application deadline, which varies from school to school.  You’ll get your decision around when everyone else does (often mid-March.)

Regular decision is good for students who might need a little more time to do their college research, or if you’ve narrowed your search but still aren’t completely sure which is the best school for you.  Like early action, you’ll also be able to compare different colleges and their financial aid options before making your decision, which for some students who are unsure of where they would like to attend, is often the most important part of their college application process.

Whether you apply early decision, early action, or opt for the regular deadline, doing the necessary research to choose whether a college is the right match and fit you is the first step.  Create a College Greenlight account and get started today!

Note: each college will have different policies, deadlines, and requirements, regardless of the admissions timeline you choose.  Make sure to check with admissions department for any school you’re considering.

Choosing A School, Fly-In Focus

Applying To & Attending College Fly-in Programs

No Comments 12 August 2016

College fly-in and diversity programs are amazing opportunities for first-gen, low-income and underrepresented students to make important campus visits funded by a scholarship or all expenses paid by the school.  Held at institutions around the country, fly-in and diversity programs give students the chance to sit in on a class, stay overnight in a dorm, meet faculty and current students, and get a real feel for a college’s culture.

Thinking about participating in one of these great programs?  Here are some tips for students on how to find, apply, and prepare for a fly-in or diversity program.

Decide What Programs You’re Interested In

Take a look at College Greenlight’s blog post to see a comprehensive list of colleges that offer these sorts of programs.  Consider which colleges are ones you are interested in attending—you don’t want to waste both your and a college’s time by attending a program at a college you wouldn’t consider, and taking a spot for someone who wants to be there.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of colleges check into the details of each program and decide if you’re eligible or if it will work with your needs and schedule.  Some programs are only for certain students, like those who are first-gen or come from underrepresented backgrounds or are for students interested in specific fields such as STEM.  You’ll also want to take a look at program dates and deadlines, and see if these particular programs have open applications and that their program dates will work with your schedule.  Junior and senior year can be a very busy time, but taking time to visit a college campus, especially for a fly-in or diversity program, can be worth it come college application time.

Collect Your Materials & Submit Applications

Once you’ve decided on what programs you’ll apply to, you’ll have to collect the necessary materials and fill out an application.  Do your research—each program may have very different requirements, from essays to transcripts to letters of recommendation, and some of these you’ll have to plan ahead to get in time.

It’s important to note that many of these programs are selective and have very limited seats available.  Some are on a first-come, first-serve basis; others are based on merit or a student’s demonstrated interest in the institution.  To have the best chance of getting accepted, apply early and, if possible, use your application materials (like essays) to explain why you are interested in that particular college.

Prepare for Your Visit

Once you’ve been accepted to a program, it’s time to get excited for your visit! It’s also time to prepare for taking advantage of your time on campus.   Make a list of questions you’d like to ask admissions staff, faculty and current students.  Depending on your interests, these questions can include information about financial aid, academics or the college’s culture.   Ask fellow students how they like the college and any other questions that might help give you an idea of how you’d fit in on campus.  Do you participate in sports or clubs or activities you plan to pursue after high school? Do you want to know what there is to do in the surrounding community? These are just a few examples of potential questions, and don’t be shy—ask away!

Interested in a specific field of study?  It can also be helpful to find out before where the faculty offices and classroom buildings are located and see if you can find some time to visit them.  Each fly-in and diversity program is different, and you may only see different parts of campus or you may get a tour of all the buildings.

Follow Up & Apply

Many college admissions professionals agree that the campus visit can be the most crucial part of deciding if a college is the right match or fit for a student.  If after you after attending a fly-in or diversity program you are still interested in the college, the real work starts!

If you met with admissions officers or faculty, you can demonstrate your interest by following up and thanking them for your time.  This not only is polite, but also helps them remember you when you send in your application later.

Don’t forget the most important part: applying!   Take note of deadlines and fill out your application to the school when it opens.  By participating in the diversity or fly-in program you already have an advantage, but there is still the last step: work hard and get accepted!





Choosing A School

Considering a Women’s College

1 Comment 08 August 2016

If you’re a young lady considering schools, you may have heard some common myths about women’s colleges: they’re outdated, won’t prepare you well for living in a co-ed world, aren’t as academically challenging, and that living with women all the time is, well, sort of weird.  In reality, however, women’s colleges have a lot of benefits, giving you an edge over other college graduates in an increasingly competitive global job market.

Here are a just a few reasons why every girl should consider women’s colleges:

Women’s Colleges Are Diverse

Being able to work with a diverse group of people is a valuable trait employers seek in potential employees. Although minorities are still very underrepresented on all college campuses, women’s college have a deep commitment to accepting diverse students given the history of how women’s colleges were first founded- to provide women with equal access to higher education.

Women’s Colleges Create Leaders (Especially in STEM)

It’s no secret that women are still underrepresented in the STEM fields and other male dominated professions such as medicine, law, business, and academia. Women’s colleges have a number of leadership and/or mentoring programs specifically designed to give young women hands-on experience in many of these fields.

For example, Smith College has over 30% of their students majoring in the sciences and with their open curriculum you can study science as well as any of their other 50 areas of study. Scripps College offers its women the opportunity to take classes with other Claremont College students, co-author papers, and present their research at academic conferences through the W.M. Keck Science Center.

Additionally, since there are no men to compete with, women dominate all student government leadership positions. as well as other leadership opportunities on campus. Seeing women in every leadership role can empower either the outspoken or shy student to be a leader themselves- a tangible skill you can put on your resume and take with you after college.

Women’s Colleges are Well-Known and Respected

Women’s colleges were created in response to the fact that Ivy League Schools initially only admitted men. As a result, many of the country’s first women’s college curriculum were designed with the same amount of academic rigor as their male counterparts. Barnard College, which is located right across the street from Columbia University, still maintains its partnership with its historic male counterpart. Today, Barnard College offers a number of world-class internships and research opportunities to its women that it did when it first opened and encourages its students to be independent leaders. Many other women’s colleges share these same traits and boast a number of accomplished women leaders. Take Hilary Clinton or Madeleine Albright for example, who both graduated from Wellesley.

Women’s Colleges Have Strong Alumnae Networks

Women’s colleges work hard to create an inspiring, relevant, and academically challenging experience for students, which in turn creates a highly supportive network for you to tap into once you leave college. These alumnae networks will especially come in handy when searching for job opportunities.

Strong alumnae networks also mean strong endowments since alums are more engaged and willing to donate money to their Alma Mater. If you’re a student who has high financial need, make sure to connect with the financial aid office at your women’s college of choice. There’s a good chance that they might be able to fund most of your family’s need.


To see which women’s colleges are a good fit for you, create your account on College Greenlight and connect with schools like Smith, Barnard, and Scripps.


Demonstrated Interest: What Students Need to Know

No Comments 04 May 2016

Guest post by Will Geiger, the founder of PrepHound

Along with grades and test scores, “demonstrated interest” is a factor in the admissions processes of many schools. But before we dive into what this means for you, let’s define what demonstrated interest is and why schools care:

Demonstrated interest is any student behavior that shows “interest” in a particular college. This can range from taking a tour of campus to interviewing to opening up an e-mail to responding to messages from colleges on College Greenlight.

Here are the main things you know:

Some schools care very much about demonstrated interest. I worked in admissions at a small liberal arts college (Kenyon College) that very much cared about demonstrated interest. Smaller schools are typically very interested in “fit” and identifying students who will thrive in their small community. As a rule of thumb, many of these schools will factor demonstrated interest into admissions decisions. This can certainly make a difference for students who are “on the bubble” between an admit and a wait list.

Demonstrated interest is contextual. For instance, if you live in Cleveland, Ohio and you decide to apply to Case Western Reserve University (which is located in Cleveland, Ohio), you better visit Case Western for a tour and interview. If you live in Cleveland and are interested in Reed College in Portland, Oregon, it is understandable if you don’t visit because it is so far away and expensive (as an aside, College Greenlight has a great list of fly-in programs that pay for your trip to a school). However, you can still demonstrate interest in other ways, such as e-mailing your admissions rep, doing an alumni interview, or meeting a Reed rep at a local college fair).

Many super selective schools and larger state schools  do not typically care about demonstrated interest. This is not to say a visit to these schools is not worthwhile (it is always helpful to get a better sense of a school you are interested in), but it likely will not impact your admissions decision. When in doubt, you can always ask the school if demonstrated interest is something that they consider.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy with demonstrated interest. You don’t need to visit every school you apply to AND e-mail your admissions rep twice a week for the entire application cycle (demonstrated interest shouldn’t border on harassment). Instead, you should make a reasonable effort to take advantage of opportunities that the college offers as far as info sessions, interviews, and college fairs. As a former admissions officer, I am also a fan of sending your admissions rep (especially as the smaller schools) a brief intro e-mail where you can also ask any questions you might have about their institution or admissions process.

If you have any questions about specific schools, you can leave them in the comments!

Will Geiger is the founder of PrepHound, which offers affordable, on-demand college counseling for students. Will’s experience has included work in college admissions at Kenyon College, as well as college counseling at a high school in Connecticut. He was educated at Wake Forest University and University of Pennsylvania.

Admissions, Tests

The ACT vs New SAT: What’s the Difference?

No Comments 11 April 2016

For decades, students have had to weigh their options whether they should the ACT, SAT or both.  With the changes to the SAT that took place in March of 2016, students may be even more confused as to how these tests are different.

While there are a few large differences, in a lot of ways, the tests are very similar.   First off, the scoring range for the SAT is from 400-1600 and the ACT scores range from 1-36.  Additionally, as of the SAT change this year, neither test penalizes you for guessing.  That means whether the guess is at random or educated, you should answer every question on both tests.

The reading sections remain somewhat similar, with the new SAT having five passages and the ACT having four.  The questions overall may now be more complex and time-consuming for SAT takers, while the ACT questions are more straightforward.

With the changes to the new SAT, now writing an essay for both tests is optional.   The SAT essay has a 50 minute time limit and will give you a prompt that asks you to evaluate an existing argument.  On the other hand, the ACT’s 40-minute essay will ask you to come up with your own argument and use evidence to support it.

The math sections also have some slight differences.  The basic content will generally include algebra, geometry, and trigonometry for both tests, however the answer options differ slightly, as all ACT math questions are multiple choice and the SAT now has a few fill-in-the-blank questions.   One big difference here is that you will not be able to use your calculator on all math sections of the SAT, while ACT math section remains entirely calculator-friendly.

Two relatively large differences between the two tests are that the SAT doesn’t have a science section, while the ACT does.  Timing is also a huge factor, as the pacing of each test is different: the SAT requires more time per question or problem while the ACT questions and timing are more fast-paced.

So how do I choose?

There are a few ways to decide which test is right for you.    For starters, thinking about your test-taking and academic strengths and weaknesses can give you a good idea where you will excel.  Students who enjoy scientific studies might want to consider the ACT as the SAT doesn’t have a science section.   On the other hand, students who like to think through questions may want to take advantage of the SAT’s more lax time restraints versus taking the ACT.

Another way to compare the two would be to take a look at the free practice tests offered through each test’s official website.  (Visit the ACT practice packet here and the SAT practice tests here.)  Whether you actually take the full tests or simply read through the questions with the time limits in mind, this can be one of the best ways to get a first-hand idea what each test can possibly be like when you sit down for the real thing.


Regardless of the test you decide to take, don’t forget to update your College Greenlight profile with your scores to improve your list of colleges and scholarships you’ll be matched with!






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