The waiting game for high school seniors can be excruciating. All of the deadlines have been met, the applications sent, and now your student is waiting for the verdict. In or out?
For an increasing number of students and colleges, the waiting game has been eliminated. More and more colleges are now conducting Instant Decision or Immediate Decision Days. Students usually submit their online application ahead of time, sign up for the IDD, arrive on campus with SAT scores, essay, recommendation and transcript, meet with admissions personnel, and leave at the end of the day knowing whether or not they’ve been admitted. It doesn’t get much faster than that.
Instant Decision Days are not new, but they are expanding. Ramapo College of New Jersey was one of the first schools to offer this program over twenty years ago. Today, many schools offer the program. It is more common for transfer students, but has rapidly expanded to include students directly from high school as well. Several colleges not only offer the opportunity to attend Instant Decision Days on campus, but take the program to local high schools as well. Some high schools host several colleges for Instant Decision. Students can apply to and be accepted to several schools without ever leaving their high school.
Instant Decision Day programs may differ slightly from school to school. Sometimes students must submit an online application prior to arriving and some programs allow students to bring everything with them. Most programs require students to meet certain pre-qualifications — SAT scores, class rank, etc. Instant Decision is not binding. Students may go on to apply to other colleges with the comfort of knowing that they have already been accepted. Although the program is spreading to many different types of colleges, it is particularly popular at smaller, liberal arts schools and schools with rolling admissions policies.
There are advantages to Instant Decision as a marketing and recruitment tool for colleges. The immediacy of the decision is an obvious draw. Admissions personnel also have the opportunity to meet with and get to know applicants. The personal contact can be an important selling feature. Since Instant Decision Days are usually held on week days, staff and faculty are available to talk with students. Students may be able to attend classes and receive advising help as they consider their four year program. Many also leave knowing their financial aid award.
The benefits of Instant Decision are obvious for students. There is instant relief in the knowledge that they have been admitted. In some cases, admissions personnel may be able to encourage a student who is not admitted that stronger grades later in the year may make a difference. This can be a strong motivator. Students have an opportunity to practice interviewing skills and gain confidence. The personal approach on Instant Decision Days can be especially important for students who have strong interpersonal skills and can use the interview to distinguish themselves in a way that their application and/or essay might not.
Not all schools offer Instant Decision Days, and the application process may not be right for every student. But once your student has narrowed his list of potential schools, encourage him to investigate whether this is an option and to consider the on-the-spot admissions program.