With fall and a new school year comes the recurring dilemma facing college-bound seniors of whether to apply “early decision.” My counsel, because Early Decision is binding has always been to apply early if you are absolutely confident that the school you want to attend is the school where you really want to spend the next four years and your parents can afford to send you. Because it’s binding many colleges don’t feel that their financial aid commitment needs to be as generous for ED students as for those who apply regular decision(RD). Some colleges will disagree with this saying ED students do receive generous aid packages.
Colleges have definite advantages with early decision. They can “lock in” their yield early on while improving their position on the college rankings
ladder. Many of the highly selective colleges play the game which guarantees them an abundance of quality candidates. A few years ago Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia gave up the ED policies expecting colleges around the country to do the same saying it disadvantaged students. Others didn’t give it up and are thriving.
What are the advantages to the student? They’ve typically been admitted
to their first choice, highly selective school early and don’t have to continue with the tedious application process. The downside is that the competition going ED is more talented, academically. These students are more savvy and better organized. They frequently have special advantages such as legacy and sports participations.
A few people did some research and in checking some of the published data, there is definitely a numerical advantage to going early decision to some Ivies and highly selective schools where the number of applications are exceedingly high and acceptance rates are very low. Let me share a few statistics of colleges that love ED. The first number shows what percentage of applicants were accepted ED and the second the percentage accepted regular decision (RD). Quite a contrast!
- Johns Hopkins University (44%/24%)
- Vassar College (41%/22%)
- Barnard College (53%/25%)
- Northwestern University (39%/26%)
- Vanderbilt University (32%/16%)
- Wesleyan University (43%/19%)
If you’re contemplating ED to a highly selective school it may be worth it if you are absolutely convinced it’s your #1. Remember, it’s binding!