As if college admissions is not confusing enough, students also need to decide when and how they will apply to schools. Never have there been more options. As a college admissions consulting, I want parents and students to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each before sending off those college applications. For now, let’s talk about early decision.
Early decision is for students who have thoroughly researched their college options and have decided that this is without question the school they want to attend. This early plan allows students to submit a college application in November and usually receive a college decision in mid-December or the first of January. Students can be accepted, rejected or deferred to the regular admission pool. If deferred, it means that a college wants to see additional grades or test scores before making a final judgment.
Early decision is a binding agreement which means that students are committed to attending this college if they are accepted. Students also agree to withdraw applications submitted to other colleges or universities. This binding agreement is taken seriously by a school and if a student chooses not to attend, there can be repercussions from other colleges. This is particularly true in the Ivy League.
So what are the benefits of early decision?
1. Students will receive a decision from a college by mid-December or early January and will not have to wait until March or April.
2. Students can be done with the college admissions process earlier.
3. The early applicant pool is smaller than regular or rolling admissions.
4. You are demonstrating to a college that it is your first choice and that can be a persuasive factor for college admissions.
5. Some colleges accept a larger percentage of students from their early applicant pool than they do from their regular decision applicants.
Are there any drawbacks?
1. Early decision forces you to decide on a school before you have had a chance to see where else you might be accepted.
2. Things can change from November to May and many high school seniors are not ready to commit to a school in December or early January.
3. Students do not have the opportunity to compare financial aid packages from other schools.
4. Some students’ grades and test scores are not strong enough to be competitive with other applicants who have applied early. They also do not have a chance to submit their senior grades or stronger test scores.
5. Too many students apply early decision even though they are unable to make a clear decision between two or more schools, thus leading to regret later on.