Early applications were initially intended to help students signal their commitment to their top choice school. Over time though, the early application system began to reproduce all the stresses and strains of regular decision, only earlier and for an extended application period. Now there are a variety of early application choices: Early Action (open choice and single choice), Early Decision, and second round Early Decision applications. Early Decision and Early Action application deadlines are usually in November, and students are typically notified of the admission decision in December. Each early application option offers pros and cons.
This blog focuses on Early Decision (ED) applications. An ED application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you will be expected to attend, and thus you must withdraw any other applications.
Applying early can be an effective admissions strategy for many students. It is most appropriate for a student who:
- Has researched colleges extensively
- Is absolutely sure that the college is their first choice
- Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically
- Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college with respect to standardized test scores, GPA and class rank
- Has an academic record that has been solid over time
Early Decision may be less appropriate for students who will absolutely need financial aid to attend college and will benefit from comparing financial aid offers from other colleges, unless your first choice college is one of the colleges that pledges to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need. (See: http://www.thecollegesolution.com/schools-that-meet-100-of-financial-need-2/.)
More and more, colleges are accepting an increasing proportion of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision (ED) applications. Click here (https://ogontz.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/2016-early-decision-vs-regular-decision-acceptance-rates-chart-8-21-16.pdf) for a document that compares ED acceptance rates to Regular Decision (RD) acceptance rates for over 200 American colleges and universities. The document also gives the percentage of each institution’s freshman class filled through ED. You will note that many prominent colleges fill 1/3 to 1/2 or even more with ED applicants, which significantly reduces the number of spaces available for the much larger pool of students who apply Regular Decision.
It’s important to reiterate that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in October or November as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early in order to buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.
If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early. Make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early.
For more information about Early Decision, see:
By Carolyn Stewart