Should You Use a Priority Application for College?

Choosing the right college and navigating the application process can be an overwhelming task for students. One option available to applicants is the use of a priority application. A priority application allows students to submit their college application earlier than the regular deadline, often providing benefits such as expedited review, earlier decision notifications, and enhanced consideration for scholarships. However, before deciding whether to use a priority application, it's important to weigh the advantages and considerations involved. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using a priority application for college.

How Is a Priority Application Different From a Regular Application?

When it comes to college admissions, students often have the option to choose between a priority application and a regular application. Understanding the key differences between these two application types is essential for making an informed decision and maximizing your chances of admission to your desired college or university. In this article, we will delve into the specifics of how a priority application differs from a regular application.

Timing and Deadlines:

The most apparent difference between a priority application and a regular application lies in the timing and deadlines. A priority application allows students to submit their application earlier than the regular deadline. Priority application deadlines can vary from institution to institution, but they generally fall before the regular decision deadline. This means that by opting for a priority application, you are expressing a heightened interest and commitment to the college or university.

Admission Evaluation:

Colleges and universities often review priority applications separately from regular applications. Admissions officers may allocate specific resources and dedicate additional attention to evaluating priority applications. This can result in expedited review times and earlier decision notifications for priority applicants. In contrast, regular applications may be subject to a lengthier evaluation process, as colleges typically receive a higher volume of regular applications.

Admission Rates and Competition:

Due to the earlier deadline and potential benefits associated with priority applications, such as higher admission rates, competition may be less intense compared to regular applications. Colleges often admit a significant portion of their incoming class through early decision or early action programs, so applying early can increase your chances of admission. However, it's important to note that the admission rates and competition can vary depending on the specific college or university and their policies regarding priority applications.

Binding vs. Non-Binding:

Another important distinction between priority and regular applications is the binding nature of certain early application options. Some colleges offer an early decision program, which is binding. If you apply through early decision and are accepted, you are committed to attending that specific institution and must withdraw applications from other colleges. On the other hand, early action and regular decision applications are typically non-binding, allowing you to keep your options open and choose among multiple acceptance offers.

Financial Aid and Scholarships:

While each college or university has its own policies, some institutions may consider priority applicants for merit-based scholarships or financial aid opportunities. By applying early, you may receive enhanced consideration for these types of awards. It's essential to research each institution's financial aid policies and scholarship opportunities to determine whether a priority application may provide an advantage in this aspect.

Flexibility and Decision-Making:

Submitting a regular application provides students with more time and flexibility to explore different college options, visit campuses, and thoroughly research their choices. Regular applications allow you to gather more information, evaluate financial aid packages from multiple institutions, and make a more informed decision about where to enroll. Applying through a priority application requires a higher level of commitment and certainty about your top-choice institution.

In summary, a priority application differs from a regular application primarily in terms of timing, evaluation process, competition, binding nature, and financial aid considerations. By understanding these differences, you can make an informed decision about which application type aligns best with your goals and preferences. Consider factors such as your level of preparedness, level of interest in the institution, and financial considerations when deciding between a priority and a regular application. Ultimately, choose the option that allows you to present your strongest application and make the best choice for your future.

Pros of Using a Priority Application:

1. Higher Admission Rates:

Many colleges and universities admit a significant percentage of their incoming class through early decision or early action programs. By using a priority application, you increase your chances of admission since the competition is typically less fierce during the early application rounds.

2. Earlier Decision Notifications:

One of the main advantages of a priority application is the opportunity to receive an admission decision earlier than regular applicants. This allows you to plan your future and explore other options if necessary. It can also alleviate stress associated with waiting for decision notifications.

3. Scholarship Consideration:

Some colleges and universities reserve a portion of their scholarships specifically for priority applicants. By applying early, you may have a better chance of being considered for these scholarships, which can be significant in terms of financial aid and reducing the overall cost of attending college.

4. Demonstrated Interest:

Applying through a priority application can demonstrate your strong interest in the institution. Colleges often value students who show genuine enthusiasm and commitment by applying early. This can potentially work in your favor during the admissions process.

Cons of Using a Priority Application:

1. Limited Time for Preparation:

Applying through a priority application means you have less time to prepare your application materials, including essays, recommendation letters, and standardized test scores. If you feel rushed or believe you could improve certain aspects of your application with more time, it may be better to opt for the regular deadline.

2. Reduced Flexibility:

Submitting a priority application means committing to that specific college or university earlier in the process. If you are still undecided or wish to explore more options, applying through the regular deadline provides more flexibility and time for thorough research and consideration.

3. Incomplete Application:

Applying early can be advantageous, but only if your application is complete and reflects your best work. Rushing through the process may lead to incomplete or subpar application materials, which could negatively impact your chances of admission.

4. Limited Time for Improvement:

By applying through a priority application, you forgo the opportunity to improve your application during your senior year. You won't have the chance to show academic progress or other accomplishments that could enhance your candidacy for admission.

Considerations When Deciding:

1. Fit and Preparedness:

Evaluate whether you are fully prepared to submit a strong application by the priority deadline. Consider your academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, and overall readiness to make an informed decision.

2. Research and Exploration:

Have you thoroughly researched and visited the college or university? Applying early should only be done if you are genuinely interested and have done your due diligence in understanding the institution's offerings and campus culture.

3. Individual Circumstances:

Every student's situation is unique. Consider your personal circumstances, college preferences, and goals when deciding whether to use a priority application. Consult with your high school counselor or trusted mentors to gain additional perspective.

4. Early Decision vs. Early Action:

Understand the difference between early decision and early action programs. Early decision is binding, meaning that if admitted, you are obligated to attend that particular institution. Early action, on the other hand, is non-binding and allows you to keep your options open.


In conclusion, deciding whether to use a priority application for college requires careful consideration. It can be a beneficial option for students who are well-prepared, have thoroughly researched their college choices, and are committed to their top-choice institution. However, it's important to weigh the advantages and considerations, considering factors such as application readiness, flexibility, and the ability to present a comprehensive application. Ultimately, choose the application option that aligns with your goals and allows you to present your best self to colleges and universities.