By Lauren Nastari          

According to the Andover High School counseling department, early action college applications have reached an all-time high this year as many seniors discovered the benefits to submitting earlier.

Applying early action means that students submit their application earlier than usual, typically in November of their senior year, and receive a decision earlier, typically in December or January. Early action is non-binding, meaning if you are accepted by a school, you do not have to attend. Early Decision has similar deadlines, but is binding. Regular decision has a later deadline and the decision is received at a later date.

As the price of a private college education rises — to an average of almost $29,000 per year just for tuition and fees, according to collegeboard.com — many students are rethinking the whole college application process. The AHS counseling department says that the total number of early applications at the high school (including early action and early decision) increased from 630 in 2009 to 900 in 2012.

“If you get in early, you have it all in your pocket,” said Dr. Haim Levkowitz, professor of computer science at UMass Lowell. According to Dr. Levkowitz, by applying early action, students are demonstrating commitment and motivation, which is very appealing to admission officers.

“This is the first year that I have seen a special reception for early action students at UMass Lowell,” said Dr. Levkowitz. “We are making a bigger deal about these students; they really matter to us.”

Many high school seniors, however, just simply don’t have the time to complete all necessary components of an application by November. The deadlines creep up quickly, and submitting earlier means that you have to be ready earlier.

According to Andover High school senior Alexandra Camilo, “The whole process was rushed.” She applied to all of her schools with regular decision, stating that procrastination was to blame.

But, if she could change her choices, “I would submit early action because I saw all of my friends getting all of their responses earlier and it seemed like such a relief.”  For Camilo and many other students, just the idea of receiving a decision sooner is attractive.

According to Mrs. Wholey, counseling department administrative secretary, it’s not about a better chance for scholarships or a better chance of getting in, it’s the relief and knowledge that the pressure is gone and there are no more worries. “You will probably get the money you are entitled to, no matter when you apply,” she said.

But Camilo says that applying early does help when filling out scholarship applications. Many of these applications ask for a list of schools that students have been accepted to, but for many students who did regular decision, that is not possible.

“If a lot of my friends applied regular decision, I wouldn’t have seen all the benefits of early action and probably wouldn’t regret not doing it,” Camilo said.

Mitchell Carey, an Andover high school senior who applied to schools through early action, agrees. “I was influenced by my family and guidance counselor to apply earlier,” he said. “Without these influences, I would have been a lot less inclined and motivated to do so.”