Frequently Asked Questions

Why have college admissions become so much more competitive in recent years?

The competitiveness of college admissions is a result of many factors, including the large number of students applying to college and the ever-increasing number of applications each student is sending out. Online applications have led to the trend of students applying to more schools than ever before. This is especially true of top students who are competing for spots at highly competitive colleges. Additionally, there is a greater movement of foreign students attending college in the U.S., and these applicants are often not seeking financial aid. This makes them very appealing to U.S. colleges and universities, many of which are struggling financially as a result of difficult economic conditions.

What is the difference between Early Decision and Early Action?

Applying Early Decision (ED) means that a student is making a firm commitment to a school and that student MUST attend if admitted. Many schools now offer both ED1 and ED2 rounds. Early Action (EA) offers a non-binding acceptance, so although the student often hears back from the college at the same time as a student who applied Early Decision (usually early to mid December), the Early Action student is under no obligation to attend if admitted early.

It is important to check each school’s individual policy, however, because some colleges are now putting restrictions on students who are applying early—even Early Action. For example, Harvard offers only “Restrictive Early Action” (REA), which means that while students are under no obligation to attend if they are accepted early, they are restricted from applying to other private universities’ Early Action and Early Decision programs (Note that REA applicants to Harvard CAN apply at the same time to any public colleges/universities or to foreign universities).

Bottom line: It is important to understand each school’s policy and plan accordingly. Weston College Prep works closely with each student, not only in deciding on college choices, but also in walking each student and his or her family through the complex (and always strategic) maze of Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, and Early Decision choices.

What is the average number of colleges to which most people apply?

Although there is no standard number of colleges to which students apply, Weston College Prep recommends that students apply to approximately five “reaches,” four “targets” and three “likelies.” The task of applying to 12 colleges, even if done well, can be stressful and highly work-intensive. When writing essays for more than 15 schools, it is less likely that those essays will offer powerful statements. Since some high school guidance departments have very specific policies concerning the number of applications each student is allowed to submit, students who are considering applying to a large number of colleges need to check with their guidance counselors to see if this is even permissible.

When is the best time to visit colleges?

Visiting college campuses is not only a junior year “rite of passage,” but it is also an imperative step in helping a student decide is a certain college or university is a good “fit.” Visiting when classes are in session and when there are students on campus is the best way to get a true picture of campus life. Colleges and universities are usually very accommodating of prospective students who choose to sit in on classes, and visiting students should also request a tour and an info session so as to gain a full picture of campus life. These visits should take place over the course of junior year.

When should I first seek advice on college admissions?

Many students and parents sit down at the beginning of freshman fall to discuss high school study techniques and strategies, as well as to receive individualized “road to college” timelines. This timeline will address when to start preparing for standardized tests, how to determine which test (SAT v. ACT) is most appropriate for each student, and what are the different steps involved in college admissions. Weston College Prep also offers advice on course selection throughout high school, weighing in on decisions such as Honors v. A.P. classes, appropriate paths to pursue in math and science, as well as ideas for summer course work, internships, research opportunities, and jobs.