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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Apply to Other Colleges While I Await My Early Decision Outcome?

Dec. 6, 2018

Should I Apply to Other Colleges While I Await My Early Decision Outcome?

Should I Apply to Other Colleges While I Await My Early Decision Outcome?
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I applied early to Vanderbilt and while I'm waiting to hear back, I'm filling out some RD applications. My mom said I shouldn't send those in until after I hear from Vandy because if I get into those RD schools, I "might take a spot from someone else." Is this true?

“The Dean" always loves to say “You're mother is right." But the best I can do this time is, “Your mother is half right." You shouldn't submit your Regular Decision applications until you hear from Vanderbilt this month (barring a couple of exceptions below) but not for the reason your mother gave you.


The real reason to hold off is that if you apply to other colleges before you receive your Vandy verdict, you will forfeit your application fees to those RD schools, and these fees can add up. Instead, just wait until you get your Vanderbilt decision and then, if the news is good, you won't have wasted your dough.

But, if you're wise, you'll keep working on those applications while you wait for Vanderbilt. With any luck, this effort will turn out to be unnecessary. But if you don't get accepted Early Decision, you'll be relieved to have all — or at least some — of your other applications ready to go. It's bad enough to be denied or deferred by a top-choice college, but it's far worse to be turned down and then have to write a gazillion new essays to boot.

However, you should only send the RD applications before you hear from Vanderbilt if ...

1. These schools have mid-December application, scholarship or program deadlines. (Some merit aid awards and special programs within a college or university can have deadlines that come sooner than the standard deadline.)

2. A college has a Rolling Admission policy where it's usually wise to apply ASAP because classes fill up.

Of course, if you do apply to any college before your Vanderbilt notification arrives and then you are accepted early (and assuming that, if you've applied for financial aid, it's adequate), you must withdraw all pending applications immediately.

As for your mother's theory that, if you apply now to your RD schools, you might be taking spaces from other students ... well, sorry, Mom, it's thoughtful but it simply isn't true. These other colleges won't have determined your fate before you hear from Vanderbilt. So there won't be time for you to nab another candidate's spot between now and the ED notification date.

So do plug away on those remaining applications, but only submit the ones (if any) that should go out right away, as noted above. Otherwise, save the application fees, and hopefully you can put them toward your Vanderbilt ED acceptance celebration party.

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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