Apply to UVa when you can present your strongest application. Remove thoughts about testing, how the admission officers will "feel" at certain times of the year, and offer statistics. Think about your application when making the decision. Here are a few questions to consider:
1. Does your academic program build nicely over the first three years of high school?We know that freshman year of high school doesn't allow for too much variety, but that you are allowed to make more choices about your program as you advance. Your counselor will send us a document called a high school profile that explains how the curriculum is structured at your school. If you have stepped up each year to take on more challenging courses, you might be ready to submit an Early Action application. Early Action is not binding, so you aren't committing to UVa if you submit under EA.
If you think your senior year might really help showcase your ability to take on challenging coursework, you might want to wait for the Regular Decision period. Students who apply RD will have their mid-year grades in their file before we make final decisions.
2. Have your grades from freshman to junior year been consistently strong?If your grades have been pretty consistent, Early Action might be the route for you since we will be making our decision based on the work you did in first three years of high school. If fall semester of senior year is really going to help you, wait for Regular Decision. RD is probably better if your grades dipped at some point (maybe you were sick, moved, or had a touch transition to junior year). Your fall grades can show that you've rebounded and the stumble is a think of the past.
3. How long will it take your to finalize thoughtful, interesting essays that convey your personality?I think many students make the EA/RD decision based solely on academics (or sometimes testing, which I'll address below), but the subjective parts of the application are important, too. If fall semester is super busy and you don't think you'll be able to present yourself well in the written parts of the application right now, it might be best to wait for Regular Decision.
4. When will you be able to have a complete application ready?If you are late asking for recommendations or won't have results from either the SAT or ACT ready by the early deadline (November 1), you might want to apply for Regular Decision (January 1).
This is NOT saying that planning on taking SAT Subject Tests or making a second pass at the SAT or ACT should stop you from applying early. The Subject Tests are optional and can come in after deadline. New SAT/ACT scores will be added to your file as soon as they are sent to us by the testing agencies. You need a score in your file at deadline time. That doesn't mean you can't send more later.
So many students worry that they can't apply to a college under and early plan if they have signed up to take a standardized test in November. In short, I don't think testing should determine when you apply.
Our review process is the same no matter when you apply. We aren't "easy" on the early group, which is a common perception. The applicant pool is strong no matter when you apply. When thinking about when to submit your application to UVa, I think you should think about the strength of your application right now and compare that to what it might look like once the first semester of senior year is finished. Apply when you feel your application presents the best case for admission to UVa!