(MoneyWatch) If you want to succeed in college, consider applying early.
That is the takeaway from a new study conducted by James Roche, an associate provost for enrollment management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
In his study, Roche examined many years worth of admission data from UMass and from Washington State University, where he was formerly an enrollment management administrator.
Roche discovered that students who submit their college applications in advance of the deadline were more likely to earn higher grade point averages at their universities. Early applicants were also less likely to leave college after their freshman year.
Early birds versus procrastinators
The difference between students who applied early and those who put off their applications till closer to the due date were striking, as early applicants registered higher test scores and GPAs than their procrastinating counterparts.
For instance, early applicants with an average high school GPA of 3.37 and 1052 SAT scores (math and reading combined) typically earned a 3.06 GPA as college freshmen, and 90% of them returned for their sophomore year.
Contrast that with applicants who applied in January at or near the admission deadline. This group of applicants, who had earned a 3.35 GPA in high school and an average 1066 on the SAT, generated an average first-year GPA of 2.78. What's more, just 78% stuck it out past their freshman year.
The reason for the academic advantage
What is the explanation for the early applicants' edge?
There is nothing magical about turning in college applications long before they are due. Roche speculated that students who apply early are more likely to possess traits more conducive to performing well in college.
"Research on the traits of successful people suggest that, among other things, they are organized, focused, detailed-oriented, efficient, confident, conscientious, responsible, resilient, committed, motivated and decisive. The same descriptions are used when talking about predictors of student success."
So if a child is organized and motivated enough to get his applications in early, he or she may be more likely to succeed in college. Go ahead and try telling that to your teenagers.