BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- By May and June, seniors at GL have happily turned their attention to the many end-of-year activities that mark their last months of high school: senior projects, AP tests, senior prom, and of course, graduation. They celebrate their last months with longtime friends, and plan for the days after they leave GL’s doors for the last time. But before all that can happen, seniors must take part in one even more significant event — committing to college.

National College Decision Day was May 1st, and by that time, all seniors heading to four-year colleges were expected to declare their intention to enroll at a certain school. But for many, the commitment process began many months earlier, in an Early Decision or Early Action round, or even years before for athletic recruits.

Talented student athletes are often identified by college coaches as early as freshmen year, and make verbal agreements to play a sport at a certain school before they have even begun their academic careers. These students continue to sharpen both their athletic and academic skills until senior year, when such arrangements can become official at a signing ceremony. One of these lucky seniors is Bailey Gold, whose talent at swimming has earned her a spot at Brandeis University. “After an overnight at Brandeis, I instantly knew it was the school for me and I was so excited to commit,” Bailey said. “It’s the perfect fit for me academically and athletically and I will be surrounded by so many hard working, open minded, and intelligent people. I can’t wait!”

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For non-athletic recruits, there are several ways to apply early to a university — and perhaps even gain early admission. These two options are Early Decision and Early Action, two very different methods of filing a college application.

Early Decision is a binding contract in which a student selects one school, and promises to attend if accepted. Applications are typically due in November or December, and students receive their decision just a month or two later. The benefits of this are that the student demonstrates a lot of interest to the college, which may improve his or her chances of acceptance. However, for students with financial need who will be requesting aid, this may be a dangerous option, because the student will be expected to attend regardless of how much financial aid is awarded.

Therefore, many students instead choose to apply Early Action to schools who offer that option. Early Action is a non-binding college application process in which the student chooses to submit an application early, but is not required to attend even if accepted. This is a great option for students who want to demonstrate interest at several different schools, but also retain the ability to weigh the pros and cons on each school after receiving all their decisions.

Senior Jake Plattman, who will be attending Temple University in the fall, was one of the many GL students who applied and was accepted to college early. “Applying so early was great because I was able to hear back so much sooner than a lot of people,” Plattman explained. “I would definitely recommend [applying early] because it lifts so much unnecessary stress and anxiety.”

However, not all students choose to submit applications early — in fact, many college applications submitted across America take place in the Regular Decision round. Regular Decision applications are typically due in January or February, and decisions appear throughout the month of March for many schools.

One GL senior who committed during the Regular Decision round is Catie Knecht, who has decided to attend Montclair State University. Catie explained that she “really liked the campus,” and her parents are excited about it “because [she] can come home on the weekends if [she needs] to.” She is excited to meet new people and room with a friend and other GL senior, Grace Delia, who will also be attending Montclair State University.

The last category of college applications are rolling decisions, in which a college accepts applications throughout the year and sends back decisions at regular intervals to interested students. This option is great for students who want to apply ahead of the typical pool and receive a quick decision, or need to apply to an extra school last-minute, as late as April or May.

By now, much of GL’s class of 2019 has already chosen where they will be spending the next four years. These announcements are often accompanied by excited social media posts, photo shoots with college memorabilia, and hearty congratulations from friends and family — and for good reason. College is the next big chapter in seniors’ lives, and they are excited to take that step into the future.

Now that college is on the horizon, all GL’s seniors have to do is graduate.