Early Action, Decision, and Acceptance: Five Seniors’ Road to College

Luke Jackson, Copy Editor

It’s officially college application season at high schools across the country, and hallways, classrooms, and students’ social media accounts are abuzz with news about acceptances. Seniors are obsessively checking their emails and mailboxes for news. Juniors are staying up late preparing for the SAT and ACT. Sophomores are beginning to think about their future on the heels of their pre-ACT results. This spring holds moments of joy for many upperclassmen, but anxious periods of waiting for others. Test results, college acceptances, and final grades are all in store for Jordan students in the next few months.

However, a few seniors have one fewer thing to worry about this spring. Some high-achieving students chose to apply early to schools that they felt a special connection to and subsequently made their commitment before the second semester ever started. Falcon Post copy editor Luke Jackson caught up with a handful of these students recently to get a better picture of what college admissions can look like for those who have their eye on one specific school.

The students interviewed were Kenneth Pye (Southern Methodist University, early action), Hannah Sauls (Northwestern University, early action), Joey Stanley (Duke University, early decision), Gabi Overcast-Hawks (Wake Forest University, early decision), and Sofia Fernandez (Duke University, early decision).

Note: Responses may have been slightly edited for length and/or clarity.

Why did you choose to apply early to the school that you did? What’s so attractive about it?

Statistically, most schools accept students who apply early at a higher rate than they do students who apply at the regular decision deadline. This was a significant factor in each student’s answer as they reflected on their decision about where they wanted to spend their next four years. However, what attracted each student to their school was very unique. Hannah Sauls (NU) was attracted to far more than the classes available to her. “Northwestern was the only school that I visited where I felt a really positive energy. I visited the school in March of 2019 and really fell in love with the lakefront campus, the quarter system, and the city of Chicago.” Gabi Overcast-Hawks (WFU) expressed her excitement about the student body at Wake, mentioning that the school “has a really geographically, racially, and politically diverse student body.” This attracted Overcast-Hawks due to her excitement “to meet new people with a different perspective and learn from them.” Overcast-Hawks, along with Joey Stanley (Duke), expressed satisfaction in the fact that their schools of choice are close to home. 

What did you do, potentially even starting as early as freshman year, to make yourself the most competitive applicant you could be?

Joey’s answer more or less summarized what everyone had to say: “I made sure to grind in every class. If your goal is to go to college after high school, why wouldn’t you work your hardest to get into the best colleges?” Similarly important to each interviewee was the academic rigor they challenged themself with; “I definitely prioritized academics by taking AP classes each year,” answered Hannah Sauls. “Taking and retaking standardized tests and trying to keep an all ‘A’ record were ways I challenged myself.” But the struggle for greatness extends beyond the classroom. Each student mentioned extracurricular activities as one of the main factors that they feel helped them get accepted to their top school. Overcast-Hawks put special emphasis on volunteer opportunities she had during her high school career. “I volunteered for things that would be related to what I hopefully wanted to study. I want to study something in politics (global or domestic, I’m not sure yet) so I volunteered for the National Youth Rights Association and a global poverty 501(c) group entering into my junior year.” 

Do you have any tips for current high schoolers as they navigate college admissions?

(Every interviewee had a fantastic response worth sharing for this question, so I’ve made sure to include a bit from each answer.) 

One of the most widely occurring themes across responses to this question was passion. Colleges are attracted to students who are passionate about something and thus dedicate time and effort to it. Competitive schools want students who will add something to their community, not just get good grades and get out.

Sofia Fernandez (Duke) touched on this in her answer, saying that “…in terms of extracurricular activities, I made sure they were consistent to show dedication to a few things rather than just signing up for anything and everything.”

Overcast-Hawks echoed this sentiment. “Remember that colleges would rather see a dedicated member of their community with real-life passions who has As and Bs than they would a straight-A student who does nothing outside of school,” she remarked. “More than likely, a school that knows you’re smart wants to see more than who you are as a student–they want to see your character and interests.”

Hannah Sauls gave more specific advice about the application process, urging everyone to start their applications early. She told a cautionary tale of her last-minute application decision: “I actually decided to apply early decision to Northwestern three days before the early application deadline, which ended up being as incredibly stressful as you may imagine.”

Kenneth Pye spoke to the importance of knowing what you’re interested in. “Decide early what type of schools you want to go to and maybe what major you want to do and tailor the rigor and type of classes you take to those two things,” he responded. “I, for example, am very interested in pursuing a career in business (basically bag chasing) and Dallas has become a hub for business recently and they hire straight out of SMU, so even though it isn’t necessarily ranked as highly as other schools I got into, I believe it will set me up best in terms of internships and jobs.”

Joey, again, gave an answer appropriate to use as a summary for all of the rest. “Do your best in school, find things you love and stick with them, try to be a leader, and apply early if you really love a school.” 

Bonus: Talk up your school!

Joey: You bet I’m gonna be camping out for months to get into the UNC-Duke game…

Kenneth: Frick UT Austin and TCU, Pony Up!

Sofia: Boo Heels!

Gabi: GO DEACS!!!🎩💛💛💛


Though every student takes their own path through high school, college, and beyond, some of the highest achievers have a few things in common. They’re determined and they’re excited about their future. They participate in extracurriculars that interest them and classes that challenge them. And above all, they have passions that they allow to shape their lives and thus their college applications.  Juniors and underclassmen alike ought to take a page out of the books of these five seniors when applying to their dream schools.