Did you know that applying to college Early Decision gives you a greater chance of college acceptance and allows you to find out if you are admitted up to three months earlier than your senior classmates? One way to make a big difference in your college application process is to understand all of the college admission options available, such as Early Decision.
I am a big believer in finding a college that is best fit for you. The school should fit academically, personally, financially, and socially. Best fit across these four factors is a foundation to college success (graduation). So after you decide which schools you will be applying then you must identify their application requirements and deadlines.
In a recent article How To Double Your Odds of College Acceptance I compared the various types of admission offerings and described a key advantage of applying early admissions. As mentioned in my last article Five Tips For Early Action College Admissions I noted that the acceptance rate is often times much higher for the schools offering early admissions.
Before going further into Early Decision I wanted to differentiate between the two most common types of Early Admissions. They are Early Action and Early Decision and have major differences. The biggest distinction is flexibility.
The Early Decision application is binding and only allows you to apply to one school. The idea with Early Decision, is that once the college accepts you then you will provide them your commitment within five to ten days. This is not flexible, not negotiable, and typically for students who meet some key Early Decision criteria. If the college does not accept you Early Decision then you are freed from this binding and can apply to as many schools as you wish. It is possible they postpone the decision until the Regular Decision period also, at which time you will be freed to apply to many schools of your choosing.
The Early Action application is non-binding. This allows you to apply Early Action to multiple schools and keep your options open. You will likely be notified of a decision by January of your senior year (sometimes December 15) and can either accept right away or wait until the colleges application deadline, typically May 1. Some schools do offer what is called Restrictive Early Action. This is treated similar to Early Decision in that it is binding and they require you only apply to their school.
Early admissions allows students to find out if they are admitted several months earlier than Regular Admissions. The idea of not having to stress longer than necessary is pretty cool. Let’s turn our attention to Early Decision.
Below are some tips for Early Decision.
Tip #1 Determine If You Should Apply Early Decision
Based on the recent trend of college admissions, it makes sense to apply Early Decision to a college when the following criteria exist:
- The college offers Early Decision (ED)
- The college meets all best fit criteria (academic, financial, social, personal)
- The college is the top pick on your college list
- You are a legacy (a family member has also attended this school)
- You can meet the earlier application deadlines (as early as October 15 to December 1)
- You are interested in finding out admissions decision 2-3 months early
- You are either not dependent on financial aid or are agreeable to loans to meet cost of attendance needs
If some of these criteria are not met then you may reconsider your admissions approach. The Regular Decision application period is always a viable option and has later deadlines (January 1 to March 1).
Let’s walk through a quick scenario. Let’s assume that the offer package comes in from your college. They have accepted you and have met 100% of the financial cost through the financial aid package they are offering you. When evaluating the financial aid terms, you identify that 80% of the cost was covered by loans, both federal and private loans. Your $50,000 freshman year cost will equate to $40,000 of loans that must be repaid. Half of those loans begin accruing interest right away so your total cost of borrowing is considerable. The college would consider their offer binding, especially since they have provided you with 100% of the cost met through their aid package offering. Multiply that cost times five years and add accrued interest and you may be faced with a college debt of $240,000 on graduation day. I like to think this scenario is extreme and would hope the offer package was much better. Even if you come out with half of that debt, would you be comfortable starting out life with over $100,000 of college debt with a long-term payback timeline and monthly payments of $500-$1,000?
Tip #2 Apply On Time According To Early Decision Deadlines
Once you have narrowed down your list of schools that you will be applying to then check to see what admissions options they have. If they offer Early Decision then pay attention to the deadlines. The deadlines are always firm. They have to enforce rules so don’t expect that they will make exceptions.
The deadlines are often driven by the selectivity of the school. The very selection private schools may have deadlines of October 15 to November 15. Selective private schools may have deadlines of December 1.
The key is to verify with each school as they are all different and may change from year to year.
Tip #3 Early Decision Improves Odds Of College Acceptance
There are far fewer applications in the Early Decision pool. In a recent article I focused on the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy league highly selective school. Penn has a far higher acceptance ratio (over 3 to 1) during their Early Decision period than in the Regular Decision period. Of their nearly 37,000 applications only 7,000 came during their Early Decision period. It makes more sense to be competing with fewer applicants, don’t you agree?
Colleges recognize that Early Decision demonstrates strong interest by the applicant.
Colleges benefit from a higher yield as the number of offers it extends are mindful of this and enjoy much higher student commitment rates than in the Regular Decision pool. This increases an important college admissions metric, called yield. Data shows that because Early Decision is binding the yield rates are much better than Regular Decision.
At a minimum, the admissions departments like the opportunity to begin the process of reviewing applications early to distribute the workload.
Tip #4 Early Decision Results In Early College Acceptance Decision
Students that apply Early Decision receive an earlier decision from the college, often as early as December or January of senior year. This reason alone is the most common reason students apply Early Decision when possible.
Tip #5 Early Decision Offered By Over Two Hundred Schools
A list of 210 early decision colleges can be found below. The list was provided by PrepScholar in September 2015 and contains the schools listed in alphabetical order by state, by college. It is important to note that any specific schools that you are interested in should be confirmed for the upcoming school year. Things change every year and this list may not include all the colleges that offer early action.
|California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||CA|
|California State University Sacramento||CA|
|Claremont McKenna College*||CA|
|Harvey Mudd College*||CA|
|New School of Architecture & Design||CA|
|Santa Clara University||CA|
|University of San Francisco||CA|
|Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts||CT|
|Sacred Heart University||CT|
|George Washington University*||DC|
|Florida Southern College||FL|
|University of Miami||FL|
|University of South Florida||FL|
|Lake Forest College*||IL|
|Lakeview College of Nursing||IL|
|Moody Bible Institute||IL|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||IL|
|Saint Mary’s College||IN|
|Southern University at New Orleans||LA|
|College of the Holy Cross||MA|
|Mount Holyoke College*||MA|
|Johns Hopkins University||MD|
|Maryland Institute College of Art||MD|
|St. Mary’s College of Maryland*||MD|
|College of the Atlantic*||ME|
|Maine Maritime Academy||ME|
|St. Olaf College*||MN|
|Washington University in St. Louis||MO|
|Fayetteville State University||NC|
|High Point University||NC|
|Wake Forest University||NC|
|Warren Wilson College||NC|
|College of Saint Mary Magdalen||NH|
|Stevens Institute of Technology*||NJ|
|The College of New Jersey*||NJ|
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||NY|
|Baruch College (City University of New York)||NY|
|Buffalo State College||NY|
|College at Old Westbury||NY|
|College of New Rochelle||NY|
|College of Wooster||NY|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art||NY|
|Five Towns College||NY|
|Hobart and William Smith Colleges*||NY|
|New York University*||NY|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute*||NY|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||NY|
|Sarah Lawrence College*||NY|
|St. John Fisher College||NY|
|St. Lawrence University||NY|
|State University of New York at Fredonia||NY|
|State University of New York at Oswego||NY|
|State University of New York College at Geneseo||NY|
|State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry||NY|
|State University of New York Maritime College||NY|
|The Jewish Theological Seminary*||NY|
|University at Buffalo||NY|
|University of Rochester||NY|
|Case Western Reserve University*||OH|
|College of Wooster*||OH|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||OH|
|Lewish & Clark College||OR|
|Bryn Mawr College*||PA|
|Carnegie Mellon University||PA|
|Franklin & Marshall College*||PA|
|Grove City College||PA|
|University of Pennsylvania||PA|
|Washington & Jefferson College||PA|
|Rhode Island School of Design||RI|
|Sewanee: University of the South*||TN|
|Southern Methodist University*||TX|
|Sul Ross State University||TX|
|Texas Christian University||TX|
|Texas Southern University||TX|
|Christopher Newport University||VA|
|College of William and Mary||VA|
|Mary Baldwin College||VA|
|University of Richmond*||VA|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||VA|
|Virginia Military Institute||VA|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||VA|
|Washington and Lee University*||VA|
|University of Puget Sound*||WA|
|Walla Walla University||WA|
* Indicates schools offering Early Decision I and Early Decision II
Source: PrepScholar, September 2015
Moving Ahead With Your College Applications
Over the past few weeks I have written articles on the types of college admissions available to you. With many Early Decision deadlines this time of year it is important to recognize the benefits of Early Admissions. I do not see any major down side so long as you follow the key tips identified in the articles. My one concern area pointed out hinges on college affordability and best financial fit questions that may not be answered at the time you submit for Early Decision.
Be sure to manage your application deadlines and have thoroughly reviewed the college application requirements. Letters of recommendation often require lead times so do not stall on those requests. You should allow at least 4 weeks for teachers or counselors to get them completed on your behalf.
When choosing Early Decision you need to focus on applying to your number one school. The toughest part is to be sure that you meet the qualifications for this school. I am saying that it is not wise to apply Early Decision to a highly Selective Dream school that you are not qualified for. If this is your approach you best have a compelling story, be a legacy, and have other strengths that will be exposed in your application. Like maybe you set a national football record for touchdown passes and are interested in leading the school to a national championship.
Now back to reality, if you have not taken any college prep courses, a challenging high school curriculum, or are below the 50 percentile in grades or test scores then you may not want to reconsider and align your college choices to your performance in high school.
You must try super hard not to be discouraged if this is your situation. Your high school performance is about to be history. Let it be just that. It takes different people different amounts of time to get motivated and ready to put in full effort and get organized. Get into the best fit college for you, focus on the cost, the environment, the students, the faculty, the curriculum and choose the college that gives you the greatest platform to maximize and succeed. Go there and rock it. Your future is what you go make it.
For those of you sitting on high grades, high class rank, college prep (AP, IB) classes complete – great work! You have demonstrated good intellect, study skills, and time management. This will serve you well as you move into the college ranks. I also remind to focus on the best fit school for you.
Go visit the school while in session, take a formal tour, conduct the informal bench test by sitting in the middle of campus to observe and listen to students for a couple of hours. Hone in on your major interests that serve as a logical stepping stone to your what’s next after undergraduate school.
Last, double and triple check the deadlines and the application requirements to be sure you are not missing anything.
Regardless your situation, your future is yours to make.