May 15, 2020
Question: Having visited 12 colleges this year, my senior daughter wants to apply to a small LAC Early Decision. (We all loved it) Her scores and transcripts look like a match and we need no FA package. If she is successful, she would know by Dec 15. Should she hold off on all other applications till then and, if unsuccessful, submit to her reserve list or go ahead and apply to all?
Since your daughter won't have a verdict until mid-December, she probably doesn't want to torpedo her holiday break by going into application overdrive, in case the news from her ED school isn't good. On the other hand, you certainly don't want to pay non-refundable application fees if it is.
So here's what I suggest:
If your daughter has any Rolling Admission schools on her reserve list, then she should apply to those at the start of the school year. Because Rolling Admission colleges operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, it doesn't seem wise to wait, even though you may eat the application fee when the ED college weighs in.
If some of the colleges on your daughter's list have no application fees (or waive them for students who apply online), then it can't hurt to submit some of these applications in advance of December 15, just to minimize the workload in case of a deferral or denial.
She should also familiarize herself with all other applications and make a list of whatever essays they demand. Even though she should probably be able to recycle the main essay she composed for her ED college (especially if it's a Common Application school) and possibly a supplemental essay as well, she will undoubtedly have additional writing to do for the other colleges on her list. So she'd be smart to get at least some of this under way before December 15th. Similarly, if any of these applications have requirements that her ED school does not (e.g., peer references, atypical recommended tests) then she should begin to round up whatever she will need.
Should your daughter wish to interview at any of her Regular Decision schools, she will probably want to make those plans before December 15 as well. A small handful of colleges (primarily Ivy League schools) will not interview candidates before the application has been submitted. So you should make certain that, if any of these colleges are on your daughter's roster, she may want to send in her application (and fee :-( ) before she is notified of her ED fate so she can get the interview on the docket.
Finally, even if your daughter will wait until after December 15th to submit applications to the other schools that interest her, she should make sure that she is on the mailing list at each of these places. Usually, once a candidate applies, he or she is automatically added to a mailing list. But, before then, it is up to the student to tell the college that she wants to receive mail (either snail-mail or e-mail) from them. Often colleges will alert prospective students when an admissions rep will be traveling to their area or if a local alum is hosting an admissions event, so it's usually worthwhile to be on these lists, despite the potential mailbox overload.
Congrats to your daughter for finding a college she loves while maintaining household harmony, too. Although ED has a lot of critics, I'm personally a big fan since it can take turn down the heat in the college-admissions pressure cooker while there is still time to enjoy the senior year.