How Did Your Early Round Go? (Everyone Wants To Know)

How Did Your Early Round Go? (Everyone Wants To Know)

Lauren Lieberman
Director of College Counseling
Shady Side Academy

College counselors across the country are asked this question nearly every December, as the Early Action/Early Decision results are released. As a college counselor for more than a decade in independent schools, I’m taken aback each winter by this question. What is it that people are really asking? My answer has always been, “Great.” To which people respond, “No really, how was your early round?”

Although this is my first year in a new school, I anticipate that it will be no different as we approach the middle of December, and that my colleagues and I will be hit with this question with some frequency. The corollary to this question, of course, is, “I heard you had a great early round,” or the dreaded, “I heard that you/that other school had a really rough early round.”

The Early Decision/Early Action round is not a sporting event, and the successes of applying to college cannot be quantified in a win/loss record or a percentage admitted. Early Decision/Early Action is most often the time in the process when students stretch the furthest. This stretch, often referred to as applying to a “reach” school because an applicant’s credentials, in some way, may fall below those typically admitted. It may also be a reach simply because some schools are highly selective, and even with the grades and scores that align with their profile, it’s hard to gain admission. With the admissions advantage that Early Decision programs offer, and the increasing percentage of colleges who are filling a significant portion of their class in this early round, it makes sense to go for that dream school, even if it is a “reach.” Part of our role as college counselors is to help our students see the bigger picture and to work with students to balance the strategy with the emotion, the head and the heart of the process.

Beyond statistics or outcomes, let’s look at what the early round is really about. Nearly all of the seniors have completed at least their first application. This first application is the hardest, because it’s the newest, the first time putting oneself down on paper: fourteen years of formal schooling boiled down to just a couple of pages of drop-down menus, checkboxes and, most often, an essay or two. Finding one’s voice and putting one’s best self forward in this manner is not easy. It’s exciting and meaningful to work with students on these applications until they can finally hit submit. Taking a risk, reaching for a dream, and utilizing all of the resources available at your school – that’s what the early round is all about.

With increasing numbers of early applications and a process that is continuously shifting earlier, it sometimes feels like the crux of the process occurs at the midpoint in the year. Yet in most schools, even those with the highest ED application percentages and admit rates, the majority of students are making their college enrollment decision in the spring of their senior year. 

So the next time someone asks “How was your early round?” I will say “Great,” and I will mean it. Because at the essence of the college process is a journey of reflection, of working towards a goal, and of the support team that helps every student put his or her best self forward. The college counselors form a part of the foundation of a strong support team. Each day, we embrace this role with great honor.  

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