Early Decision Dilemma by Suzan Guven

The most common question I get asked about the college admissions process is regarding early admissions. With the number of applications increasing every year and the competition getting higher, every student feels that they should apply early. Some of the students may even think that they should submit an early application even though they haven’t decided on which school to apply to. There is an ongoing argument about who actually benefits from the early admissions round: the colleges or the students. Some may argue that the early round is in favor of the wealthy class. I don’t quite agree with that statement. Early admissions round is for the benefit of the early prepared. Here is why I think this is true.

But first, in order to have a more informed opinion on early round, let’s take a closer look at the early application options:

1. Early Action: Students need to apply by November 1st. They hear about the admissions decision by mid-December but don’t have to inform the college about their decision before May 1st.  Early action is not binding, and the students are not obligated to attend a college if they are admitted early. They are free to choose to attend somewhere else.

2. Early Decision: Students need to apply by November 1st. They hear about the admissions decision by mid-December. If accepted, the students have to withdraw all other applications and must attend their ED school. Some colleges have two early decision deadlines, EDI and EDII. The latter deadline is January 1st and lets the applicants hear about the decision by mid-February. Both ED agreements work the same way; they are binding.

3. Restrictive/Single Choice Early Action: Students need to apply by November 1st. They learn about the admissions decision by mid-December and don’t have to let the college know before May 1st if they will attend or not. Colleges place different restrictions on applying under restrictive early application plans. Students should check the restrictions carefully before deciding on applying under restrictive early action.

Now that we have covered different early admissions options, let’s look into why students should or should not apply early. First of all, we should pay closer attention to statistics. Colleges fill out certain percentage of their incoming freshmen class during the early round. For the Class of 2022, Brown University accepted 738 out of 3,502 ED applicants; equaling to an ED acceptance rate of 21%. During the regular round of Class of 2022, Brown accepted only 5.7% of its 31,936 applicants. In other words, Brown filled out 44.7% of its incoming freshmen class of 2022 during the Early Decision Round! The numbers will get even more lower this year as Brown University accepted 769 of 4230 applicants for the Class of 2023 during ED; this equaled to an acceptance rate of only 17.8%. (Source: Brown University Website) Applying early increases your chances of getting accepted significantly.

Secondly, some colleges offer merit based scholarships with Early Action/Decision deadlines. I would recommend students who plan on applying for scholarships to certainly research to apply during the early round. This is more common for international students for which the scholarship and financial aid pool is very limited. Even if the colleges don’t have early deadlines for scholarships, they prefer to give their funding to students who show demonstrated interest during the early application process for the early round. For example, Tulane University states that, ‘It is suggested that you submit a complete Early Action (15 November) or Early Decision (1 November) application for admission (to the Global Scholarship Program)” (Source: Tulane University Website)

I am not suggesting every student should apply during the early round. Students should apply during the early round only if:

  1. They are done with standardized tests by October of their 12th grade.
  2. They believe they wouldn’t be increasing their high school GPA significantly during the first semester of 12th grade.
  3. They have done their college research, know where they want to apply early to, and why they want to apply to that specific school.
  4. They have shown their ‘demonstrated interest’ to the admissions officers. This may be through a college campus visit, an interview with an alumni or an admissions representative, or even emailing the admissions representative.

Students, if you have said yes to the above mentioned four checkpoints and feel that you are ready, there is no reason not to apply early.

Suzan