Greetings Students and Families,
In 2023 COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE RATES– IMPACT ON YOUR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN?, and College Acceptance Rates- Don’t Worry Plan Early, I discussed college acceptance rates and urged you to try to see past the aggregate data points. A student’s chances of acceptance depend not only on the individual’s academic record, but on factors including geographic location, your intended major area of study, gender and a host of other factors that aren’t reflected in an aggregate number. Your chances of acceptance are very likely much higher than published aggregate percentages – so don’t be discouraged by these single-digit percentages! I also suggested that overall college rankings can be misleading as a specific major may offer an exceptional educational experience which isn’t reflected in each university’s overall ranking – this often true for STEM, creative arts and business majors. For example, Babson isn’t a top 100 university- but it’s a top 3 program in Entrepreneurship. Consider the University of Florida, a top 50 university overall, but not all it’s STEM majors reach the top 10. Consider RISD or SCAD– top 5 in the arts, but neither a top 50 college. Considering Physical Therapy- Ithaca College top 10 undergraduate program, but the university isn’t a top 50. With 3800+ universities to explore– knowing more about your educational and career aspirations, your private college counselor can help you find the perfect fit. Click to schedule a College Admissions Planning Assessment with Bonnie Rabin, PhD or phone 833.MY.ESSAY today!
But what about all the hype over Early Decision?
College Admissions – Is EARLY DECISION RIGHT FOR YOU?
Whether you’re now a senior getting ready to submit applications, or a junior beginning to focus on colleges to visit and explore more deeply, you may still wondering about these data points – acceptance rates in particular, and you’ve likely heard that Early Decision acceptance rates are often higher than other college application options. Yes, that’s true, in aggregate, for a given university, the acceptance rates of the ED applicant pool are higher than the comparable acceptance rates for students applying regular decision.
Buyer beware -that does NOT translate to my chances are double if I apply ED!
Why do ED rates exceed RD college acceptance rates?
There are a few reasons why this is the case—partly it’s due to student self-selection. Applicants with stronger academic profiles tend to focus on Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) options. Submitting your college application as an ED/EA is also is an indicator to college admissions officers that you are very interested in the university — it’s your top choice (ED) or one of your top choices (EA). Universities also prefer to admit a reasonably high percentage of their freshman applicant pool through the ED/ED method filling the freshman class quickly, aiding in financial and academic planning. You’ve probably also heard that Legacy acceptance rates are higher and that many Legacy students often apply ED.
Why Do Colleges Admit Legacy Students?
While universities aim to form a well-balanced freshman class across majors, geography, gender and a host of socio-economic factors (COLLEGE ADMISSIONS- WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW SAT “ADVERSITY” SCORE -DON’T WORRY BE “HAPPY”), universities do track their acceptance rates and acceptance-yields and aim to realize objectives (just like any organization). College admissions officers aim to admit qualified students who will accept an offer of admission. Applying as a legacy student signals demonstrated interest. Whether, it makes you uncomfortable or not, Colleges and universities are concerned about alumni engagement and alumni donations, and offering admission to qualified children of alumni is one way to accomplish these goals.
So, let’s answer the important question:
IS EARLY DECISION RIGHT FOR YOU?
The intent is simple- Early Decision is designed for students who are convinced that the university is the perfect fit (in all respects—academic, social and financial) and the college is your top choice!
But buyer beware….
If you’ve already visited campus having spent a reasonable amount of time speaking with faculty and students and have given an equivalent level of consideration to at least one or two comparable universities, ED can be a wise educational decision. First-impression bias is dangerous. If you fall in love with the one and only campus you visit- ED is NOT the way to approach your college planning and college admissions process. Please visit an alternative and compare your options.
Applying ED is not a decision to be made lightly, and as noted, please don’t be misled or misguided by those lists of acceptance rates leading you to believe that applying ED doubles your chances of an acceptance. If your college application doesn’t demonstrate well-informed reasons for your choice – you may be deferred to the regular application pool or rejected outright.
I don’t recommend using your ED “raffle ticket” on a “match” choice—you only have one ED (read on – see below)—after looking at your balanced list of reach, match and safety colleges—ED can be a great college admissions strategy and one best used for your top choice if it’s a “reach” institution”. Confused – let’s have a conversation- click to connect with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD – 30+ years experience serving clients Nationwide in all majors.
Early Decision clearly allows the applicant to convey demonstrated interest, this is an important part of the college admissions and college application process.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EARLY DECISION (ED),
EARLY ACTION (EA),
RESTRICTED EARLY ACTION (R-EA) and
REGULAR DECISION (RD)?
One of the most significant differences between submitting a college application thru the ED, EA and RD options is simply timing- timing of when the application is due and the timing of the notification of the college admissions decision.
Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) are submitted months ahead of the Regular Decision (RD) application and notification dates are typically December 1 to December 15 in contrast to RD notification March 1 to April 1. Each college sets its own dates- these aren’t universal nor specific to the Common Application. Check check and check again.
WHEN DO I SUBMIT MY APPLICATION, Test Scores, Teacher Recommendations and Transcripts?
In case your wondering about when to submit all the components of your college application, please refer to my recent blog: COLLEGE APPLICATIONS – TEACHER RECOMMENDATIONS, HS TRANSCRIPTS & TEST SCORES
EARLY DECISION IS BINDING – WITH ONE NOTABLE EXCEPTION
As most students already know, ED has one important distinction- the decision is binding. By submitting your ED application if accepted, you agree to enroll. To be released from your “college acceptance contract” you will need to demonstrate that enrolling presents a financial hardship for your family. It’s unethical to test-the-waters—apply, receive and acceptance and falsely decline the offer because you changed your mind.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
In contrast, Early Action is non-binding and offers students information about their acceptance much earlier than regular decision. I encourage students to apply Early Action to any college offering this option because doing so indicates the college is one of your top choices. This is another great reason to begin your college planning early–building a college plan to take steps towards realizing your educational goals, including preparing for all the components needed to submit a complete college application.
What about Restricted Early Action?
Restricted Early Action is a bit more complicated. Let’s look at Harvard and Stanford University policies on Restricted Early Action to understand the complicated interactions on “restrictions” in any R-EA policy.
“Applying to Harvard under the Restrictive Early Action program empowers you to make a college choice early. Early applicants apply by November 1 and hear from us by mid-December.
If your record and accomplishments have been consistently strong over time, Early Action may be an attractive choice. You don’t have to commit to coming to Harvard, but you will learn earlier if it is an option for you.
Early Action is a non-binding early program, meaning that if you are admitted you are not obligated to enroll. If you apply to Harvard under our Early Action program, you may also apply at the same time to any public college/university or to foreign universities but you are restricted from applying to other private universities’ Early Action and Early Decision programs.
You have the flexibility and freedom to apply to other institutions during the regular decision round, and you have until May 1 to compare your admission and financial aid offers.”
STANFORD RESTRICTIVE EARLY ACTION
“We evaluate applications in the same way whether you apply early or regular. We do not give an advantage to early applications, so we recommend you apply when you feel your application is ready.
Restrictive Early Action is Stanford’s non-binding early application option.
Restrictive Early Action Policy
- If you apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private college/university under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan.
- In addition, you may not apply to any public university under an early binding plan, such as Early Decision.
- If you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action, you may apply to other colleges and universities under their Regular Decision plan.
- If you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action and your application is deferred, you may apply to another college’s Early Decision II plan.
You may simultaneously apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action and to the following:
- any public college/university with a non-binding early application plan or early application deadline.
- any college/university with a non-binding rolling admission process.
- any foreign college/university with a non-binding application plan on any schedule.
- any college/university with an early deadline for a scholarship or special academic program, as long as:
- the decision is non-binding; and
- in order to be considered for the scholarship or program, the student must apply in the early round or by an early deadline.”
SO, WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? Understanding Restricted Early Action
There are many interesting combinations possible, and a sequence of potential application dates. For example, a student might submit to a restricted EA plan – slightly more limiting and need to carefully coordinate with other ED options. It’s very important to be crystal clear about your reasons for applying and check all ED and EA policies for any applicable policies that may apply to your college choices. It’s possible to apply to one REA and one ED – but you must read the actual “restrictions” and comply.
But more importantly- is your college application ready? Did you have sufficient time to be thoughtful about the content of your essays and activities inputs? A rushed application is unwise and runs the risk of not being your best presentation of your strengths and interests.
If your grades are on an upward trend, a student may be better served by waiting to submit under a later regular admissions decision option allowing a stronger transcript to be provided as part of your college application and potentially resulting in a more favorable college admissions outcome.
DRAWBACKS OF EARLY DECISION/ EARLY ACTION
Although there’s clearly a huge advantage to having an earlier notification many months sooner, there are some drawbacks that shouldn’t be ignored. Consult your college counselor to discuss and explore your best option.
Given the Binding commitment to enroll, there’s no opportunity to compare financial aid packages across colleges nor is chance to leverage or negotiate your financial aid package. That said, by speaking with an experienced college advisor, you can determine the college’s reputation for providing financial aid that meets students’ unmet need. Applying to a university under an ED plan when that college has a less than stellar track record of offering financial aid should be avoided if you require financial aid to attend. Likewise, if you need to negotiate and plan to leverage higher financial offers, ED isn’t a suitable option either.
Size of Financial Aid Awards. The average financial aid package to ED / EA students is smaller in aggregate data on the size of packages for the regular applicant pool at the same university. Yet, the ED sample is skewed towards wealthier families. Universities DO NOT award smaller financial aid to ED applicants – your award is based on your EFC and it’s simply a myth. In fact, colleges consider you a highly qualified applicant and will attempt to go the extra mile to have you attend once accepted. Reality, there’s still more financial aid available to ED applicants, because the university hasn’t yet overextended the available grant money. Keep in mind, announcement of scholarship recipients isn’t generally announced until the entire applicant pool has been reviewed.
WHAT’s YOUR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to college applications and the college admissions process. For some students, Early Decision may be a great option and for others, it’s probably something to scroll past.
While Early Decision isn’t for everyone, now that you know more about how Early Decision works, please reach out to explore your college admissions plan and build a college application strategy to align with your educational goals. Whether you’re preparing your college or just starting high school, you’re invited to leverage my experience as a former college professor providing expert educational advising and college advisor services.