Early Applicants: Not One Size Fits All


A student applying early is a strong indicator of interest. They considered college choice sooner, applied faster, and believed there was value in being evaluated first.  

Many colleges and universities build a large portion of their incoming class through early applications. And students have reacted accordingly. Based on data updated as of December 7th: 

  • Early Decision applications are up 10.9% year-over-year.
  • Early Action applications are up 7.2% year-over-year.

Yet, other than Early Decision, enrollment is not a foregone conclusion despite the strength that applying early signals in interest.  

Here are several metrics of interest about early applicant behavior: 

  1. Location, location, location: 31.7% of early applicants live within 100 miles of campus. 
  2. Timing matters: Half of early applications are from students who inquire before their senior year, and those applicants who inquire before the senior year matriculate in positive ways: 
    • Pre-senior inquiries are twice as likely to enroll as students who first inquire during their senior year.
    • Pre-senior inquiries retain into their second year of college 7-percentage points higher than senior inquiries. 
  3. Test scores are telling: 34.7% of early applicants have submitted a test score. And these students are 6.8 percentage points more likely to yield than non-submitters. 

While the physical act of applying early indicates interest, dissecting and understanding these data points will help you fully understand the composition, strengths and weaknesses within your pool. The question to ponder is how early can you identify and assess these metrics to make meaningful change for next year’s early applicant pool. In the meantime, an action to take is to prioritize time, attention and resources on those applicants in your pool who inquires before their senior year.