What if your ED/EA school rejects you?
Most students applying to competitive schools these days submit at least one application before Nov. 1 using an early submission option (Early Decision, Early Action, etc.). They - or maybe you - are expecting to hear back very soon whether you've been accepted to a school you like or whether you'll have to prepare numerous other applications in the narrow window before Jan. 1.
This presents a quandary for today: what do I right now in this bardo of waiting? Should I begin prepping those other applications or just cross my fingers and hope I'll receive an acceptance letter in the next ten days? Maybe you're checking the stats on how likely Yale, for instance, accepts its Early Decision applicants. Maybe you're confident that you have a good shot and you've decided to just sit and wait. Or perhaps you're worried you'll jinx your chances if you begin prepping other applications, so you're just crossing your fingers and waiting for that email.
In our experience you should never expect you'll be accepted into the most elite universities. They're simply too competitive. Begin your other applications now so you don't end up scrambling before Jan. 1 while you're also sprinting toward end-of-quarter exams, projects, performances, etc. That's too much stress and all of your activities - especially your college apps - will suffer. And, most importantly, so will you! If you'll have supplemental essays to write after an ED/EA rejection, check what those prompts are asking for and see if there's anything you've written already that could make a good launching point for those essays. If you've won any award or participated in any resumé-worthy activity between now and the last applications you submitted, update your resumé and activity list. If you rushed to write your personal statement before the Nov. 1 (early) deadline, revisit that essay and see if you can improve it. You probably can.
Aside from all this, however, we recommend you begin your other applications now because there's A LOT you can learn about yourself by writing college applications. Not only that, but you will improve tremendously as a writer if you take the time to reflect and write your supplemental essays with care.
Applying to college, acceptance letters or no, is never a wasted effort.