Welcome back @VelocityGirl! When a contest first comes out, for the first hour or two (not sure about the exact time frame) it is sort of reserved for High Ranking Creatives for that time period. I think you need a percentage rate of 80% and up inorder to qualify to be able to participate in Early Entry. Otherwise it will cost you 25 points, if you want to be able to get a jump up on the competition. (so to speak) The percentage rate I'm referring to is the CH score found on our Profile Page. Not the Contest Win rate, but the percentage rate based on CH scores pertaining to our entries. That's the gist of it anyhoo. Again not positive about exact details regarding time frame and prate needed to gain early entry without needing to use points.
Perhaps someone else will jump in and share the details. Once again, welcome back!