Should You Use a Priority Application for College?


Did you receive a priority application from a college but aren't sure what exactly it is? Is it a scam? Does it mean you'll automatically be admitted? Should you apply to schools that offer you priority applications or do you have better options? This guide on priority applications will answer all your questions!


What Is a Priority Application?

What's a priority application for college? First, let's clarify what we're discussing. We're not talking about a priority application deadline. That is when submitting your application by a certain date can give you a better chance of admission or a decision by a certain date. For priority application deadlines, the application you use is the same as everyone else's; you just need to submit it earlier. To learn more about priority deadlines, check out our guide specifically on them.

A priority application (sometimes called a VIP application) is an application a college offers you that is different from its standard application. We discuss the exact ways priority applications can be different in the next section, but, in general, they are shorter and easier to complete, and you may not need to submit an application fee.

There are some common misconceptions about priority applications. Contrary to what you may read online, priority applications aren't a scam. If a legitimate college is offering you a priority application, that is a real way to apply to the school and get your application considered.

However, receiving a priority application also does not guarantee the school will admit you. Schools that use priority applications generally send out thousands to students whose SAT, ACT, or state exam scores they've received. These schools are using that one piece of data to make an educated guess that you're someone they want at their school, but until they receive your actual application they won't know for sure. So don't take acceptance into a school that sends you a priority application as a given.

Why would a college offer priority applications? It doesn't mean they're desperate for students; many schools that offer priority applications are competitive. Schools typically use them to try to entice students who normally wouldn't consider their school. Priority applications are often sent to out-of-state students, as well as those with test scores well above the average scores of the school. These schools hope that, by making the application process easier, they can convince more students to apply to their school, and perhaps attend it. Priority applications are just one more marketing tool colleges have and sometimes make use of.


How Is a Priority Application Different From a Regular Application?

Each school that uses priority applications designs them in slightly different ways. However, all priority applications are designed to make things a little cheaper and easier for the student so they're more likely to apply. Here are some of the most common ways priority applications can differ from regular applications.


No Application Fee

One of the most common features of priority applications is that they often don't require an application fee. With college application fees often costing $50 or more, this can definitely be a benefit.


Earlier Response Date

If you apply using a priority application, you may hear back faster, often by a guaranteed response date. Some colleges guarantee a response time in as little as two weeks, and knowing a college's admission decision that quickly can help you plan out which other schools you'll apply to.


Skip Parts of the Application

Many priority applications, designed to be quicker and easier to complete than regular applications, don't require students to submit or complete certain information. For example, if you are applying with a priority application, you might not need to write a personal statement or send in letters of recommendation.


Considered for Additional Scholarships

Students who receive priority applications may also be eligible for additional scholarships and financial aid general applicants don't qualify for. This financial aid is often distributed based on test scores and/or GPA.




Which Schools Offer Priority Applications?

Colleges don't typically mention the fact that they have priority applications to anyone other than the students they're offering these applications to. This is because it doesn't benefit the school for it to be widely known that it offers priority applications. If it becomes common knowledge, students who don't receive the priority application may feel slighted and end up attending another school, and students who do receive the priority application may think getting one is not that much of a distinction when they hear about hundreds or thousands of other students also receiving priority applications. So, unless you directly receive a priority application, it's difficult to find a lot of information about them.

From our online sleuthing though, we've come up with a list of some colleges known to regularly offer priority applications. This list is by no means exclusive, and any of these schools may suddenly decide to no longer offer priority applications at any time. However, if you do receive a priority application from one or more of these schools, know that it's part of their tried and true recruiting efforts.

School Name Location
Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ
Brigham Young University Provo, UT
Colorado School of the Mines Golden, CO
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
Tulane University New Orleans, LA
University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
University of Oklahoma Norman, OK


Should You Apply to Schools That Offer You a Priority Application?

What should you do if a school you weren't previously interested in sends you a priority application? Should you apply just because they're making it easier? Not always.

Just like with regular applications, you should only fill out priority applications of schools you would actually want to attend. Doing otherwise just wastes your time, even if the priority applications are easier to complete. Some people use these priority applications for their safety schools, but remember that just because a school sent you a priority application doesn't mean your admission is guaranteed. Also, even safety schools should be schools you're happy to attend.

If you receive a priority application from a school you think you might be interested in, research it the way you did with other schools you're applying to. Does it seem like it would give you a top-notch education? Do you like where the school is located? Does it have the major you want? 

After you've done your research and have decided you would be legitimately happy to attend, then feel free to apply using its priority application. Otherwise, focus your time and effort on schools that are a better fit for you. There's no prize for getting the highest number of college acceptance letters, so don't feel the need to apply to all or even most schools that offer priority applications just because it's easy.




Summary: What's a Priority Application for College?

What is a priority application? It's an application that either doesn't require an application fee, drops some requirements such as personal statements or letters of rec, opens up more scholarship opportunities, or a combination of the three.

Schools send priority applications to students they don't think would consider their school otherwise. Priority applications aren't a scam or a guarantee into a certain school, and you should research the schools that send them to you the way you'd consider any others. They can be a great way to learn about schools you otherwise wouldn't have known about, but only apply to them if you'd legitimately be happy to attend that school.


What's Next?

Want to learn more about priority deadlines for colleges? Our guide explains what priority deadlines are and how you can make them work for you.

When should you be applying to colleges? Our guide has a complete college application timeline to follow so you won't miss a single college deadline.

Considering deferring college for a year? Read up on all the pros and cons of deferring college and doing a gap year.



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About the Author
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Christine Sarikas

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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