Ever hear of a “Priority Application?” If not, keep reading!

If you’re a high school senior with a pulse, there’s a good chance you’ll receive an email that looks something like this within the next few weeks (if you haven’t already). 

Dear Dream Student,

You are incredible!  We love you!  We need you!  Because of this, we are BEGGING you to consider applying to our college using this special, unique, wonderful Priority Application!  Because we love you SO much, we’re not going to make you pay an application fee or write an admissions essay!  Please submit your application IMMEDIATELY.  Oh, and if you do, we promise to give you any scholarships that you qualify for.


Top College

Okay, so that might have been a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist of it.   What I am referring to is an invitation to apply to a college or university using what’s called a Priority Application or, what I like to call a Fast App.

Generally they arrive by email and either includes a link to an abbreviated application, or a special code one can enter into an existing application like the Common Application to waive the application fee and writing requirement.  The letter will often promise that those who apply early with a Priority Application are also given ‘priority scholarship consideration’ (red flag #1).   If you see this in an email from a school, I suggest you take a quick peak at the college’s financial aid website.  Most schools promise automatic scholarship consideration for any student who applies by a certain deadline (typically November 1st) regardless of which application they use- priority application, early actin application or regular application.  Did you catch that in the sample email I provided earlier?  They’re basically making you a promise to give you something that you already qualify for. 

Now, in some cases, this is a wonderful opportunity and surely one to be taken advantage of.  But students should proceed with an invitation like this with extreme caution.   You see, Fast Apps are an efficient way for colleges to quickly and dramatically increase the amount of applications they receive in a given year (students are a lot more likely to apply when there’s no cost and no extra work) and in turn, an effective way for colleges to dramatically decrease their admission rates and appear to be more selective (which many people, unfortunately, equate with being more desirable). 

In some ways, these applications actually put you at a disadvantage.  Consider this: you have poured countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears into your Personal Essay.  You have consulted with your Student Services Consultant, brainstormed for hours, and received edit after edit from our team.  You have worked hard to make sure that this essay adds dimension to your application and shows off the unique and talented individual that you are.  Don’t you want to make sure that every college you apply to has the opportunity to read that important document and use it in order to decide whether or not they should admit you?  NOT submitting your essay may actually put you at a large disadvantage.  You may be better off skipping the priority application and applying under an early action or regular decision plan. 

I suppose the biggest beef I have with these Fast Apps is the position they put me in as the bearer of bad news.  Each fall, without fail, I receive excitedly forwarded emails from students who are thrilled to be invited to apply using a priority application to a college that they (very clearly) are not likely to be accepted to.  It is then up to me to break the news and delicately bring this person back to reality.  I care about you too much to see you fall into this trap. 

Now, it should be said that sometimes these invites are completely legitimate and can be a truly wonderful opportunity, but so too are they sometimes traps used to lure under-qualified students in.  My advice is to approach these applications with caution.  If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.  Let’s say you’re a solid 3.2 student with a 24 ACT or 1160 SAT and you receive an invite to submit a Priority Application to a college with an admission rate beneath 50% ,where the average accepted student has a 3.8 GPA and a 30 on their ACT or a 1400 SAT.  Let that be a red flag for you. 

Priority Applications may still be worth considering if you’re able to submit your essay somehow, even though you’re not required to.  Generally this is possible for Common App schools.  You can enter the code to have your fee waived, but still copy and paste your essay. 

And perhaps your best bet is to simply forward the email to your Student Services Consultant at PES and get their advice on how best to proceed. 

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