Applying to College: Early Decision (ED)

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This week, I’m going to discuss the different ways students can apply to college. Each has its benefits and its negative aspects. If your student is trying to decide when to apply, these articles should help.

Early Decision has become more and more popular among students applying to college. A vast majority of students are opting to apply Early Decision to their first-choice colleges in order to get an answer before Jan. 1, rather than waiting for the regular college application cycle in the spring. Not every college offers that option, you can see the complete list here: Early Decision Schools: Complete List of ED Colleges.

Early Decision (ED) is the most restrictive of the early deadlines, Early Decision is a binding agreement between the student and the institution, meaning that a student must enroll if offered admission. The key point to remember is that a student may apply to only one college ED. If you are admitted ED, throw confetti in the air and buy your college sweatshirt! Your college process is done. Some colleges also offer Early Decision II, which typically has a January deadline. If you were denied or deferred from one college in the first round of ED, you can apply to another college via EDII.

What are the deadlines for Early Decision?

Early Decision application deadlines are usually prior to Nov. 1. The deadlines for Early Decision II and regular decision are usually Jan. 1. Decisions for Early Decision applications usually arrive the middle of December. EDII decisions are usually received by the middle of February. Regular decisions usually arrive mid-March.

Why would students choose Early Decision?

Students who have made the decision to pursue one dream college should consider applying Early Decision. If they do, they will know before winter break if they have been offered admission. It’s a huge stress reliever that allows the student to enjoy the remaining months of senior year knowing a college decision is locked in.

And, if you apply Early Decision, your college application will be at the top of the stack and will precede regular decision applicants, giving you an early advantage.

Early Decision students have a significant admission advantage at many colleges. You can check out how much by visiting the college’s page at the College Data website. For instance, overall, 23 percent of Bates College applicants were admitted. But, when you look at the Early Decision applications, 50 percent of those applicants were admitted.

What are the risks to applying Early Decision?

The downside to applying Early Decision is financial. Parents and students will not have the option to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges. Early Decision applicants could miss out on scholarship and merit aid opportunities at other colleges. Applying Early Decision doesn’t assure a generous financial aid package – and the decision is binding.

If you can’t afford to pay the tuition at the college of choice, it might be better to opt for an Early Action or regular decision application. Neither of these are binding and you can compare financial aid packages before accepting an offer of admission.

What happens when an Early Decision student is deferred?

Being deferred means a school is still interested in a student and will review the application again with the regular decision applicants. The odds of being admitted from a deferral are slim, however. It might be time for your student to move on to other college choices and start those applications.

What is Early Decision II?

A few colleges also offer ED II. Students who apply using this option can apply in early January and receive a binding offer of admission by February. The application deadline for this option is the same as for regular decision applicants, but these students receive word on admittance sooner and must commit upon acceptance.

Does Early Decision mean an easier senior year?

Being accepted early does not mean a student can skate through senior year. Students who apply Early Decision will still be held to the standard of academics under which they were accepted. Since most Early Decision applications submit junior year grades, colleges will require a final senior year transcript. If the grades don’t measure up to the year’s previous grades and/or fall short of the college’s academic requirements, a college can rescind its offer of admission.

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