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    Is Early Decision Right for You?

    Posted by Chloe Patel

    Every year, in the college application cycle beginning in October, high school seniors face a big dilemma. Should you apply to a school early decision or wait and apply regular decision in a few months?

    In a nutshell, early decision is a binding agreement that if the institution accepts you, you’re obligated to attend and must withdraw all other college applications.

    Early decision applications are usually due between November 1 and 15. You learn whether you’ve been accepted, rejected, or deferred by mid-December.

    The Daily Free Press (Boston University’s independent student newspaper) reported that 58% of students for the class of 2028 were accepted during the first round of early decision admissions to Boston University. This acceptance rate holds true for many institutions across the US — about half of the early decision applicants will get into a particular school.

    Statistics like these may cause you to worry that if you opt out of early decision, you put yourself at a disadvantage and decrease your chance of going to your dream school. But early decision (ED) is only right for some people.

    When applying for early decision makes sense

    The Pros

    To colleges, early decision represents a major interest in that school. An early decision application shows the college you’re absolutely positive that it’s your top choice.

    ED applicants typically hear back by mid-December if they have been accepted. Knowing the outcome this early makes the rest of your senior year less uncertain and stressful because you know where you’ll be in the fall. You also don’t have to worry about writing another supplemental essay.

    Applying early cuts the time spent waiting for a decision and saves time and money because you don’t have to submit more applications. You get a little time back to enjoy your senior year and prepare for your specific college sooner. Another plus? The holidays fall right around the decision, offering an opportunity to get college merch from your family and friends.

    The Cons

    There are many other factors to consider when it comes to applying early.

    While there are fewer applicants, these applicants are equally interested in that particular school and often have impressive applications to showcase. Without those senior year grades, you risk rejection because your application materials were weaker than had you waited to apply later. Receiving a denial during ED disqualifies you from reapplying during the regular decision period.

    Another disadvantage?  Feeling the pressure to make a decision much sooner. Applying ED and receiving a “denied” letter — and the resulting disappointment of not getting in after committing can be gut-wrenching.

    If you don’t get into a college during early decision, you can still apply to other schools. But, because most colleges notify applicants of admission in mid-December, the regular deadline sneaks up very quickly. While waiting to hear from your ED school, complete the applications to your other choices — it never hurts to over prepare!

    A major disadvantage is the reduced financial aid opportunities. Early decision applicants tend to get a smaller financial aid package than those applying early action or regular decision because they’ve demonstrated that they are all in on that particular school.

    Unless you apply and get accepted to other universities through its early action applications, you won’t be able to compare other colleges’ financial aid offers. So, if financial aid is a big consideration influencing where you go, applying early decision presents a big risk.

    Another general concern? What if you change your mind? Early decision is binding even if another college suddenly feels more suitable.

    If you’re torn between several schools, you may not want to make a binding commitment to one school without knowing your other options. Lisa Sohmer, Director of College Counseling at Garden School, recommends, “Applying ED means making a decision about college selection in October rather than May. For teens, those six months are significant, especially when you are talking about such a big decision.”

    Is early decision right for me?

    You might think ED is your Hail Mary — a one-time chance for acceptance into a school you might miss in the regular admission pool. But early admission candidates tend to be high achievers with excellent resumes.

    Brittany Maschal Ed.D, an educational consultant, cautions her clients, “There is no point in wasting your ED card on a school that is far out of reach and won’t see you as a competitive applicant.”

    Christine VanDeVelde, co-author of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, advises, “The student who applies early decision should be someone who does not change their mind easily, has fully investigated their options, understands how their grades and scores fit into the college's academic profile, and has visited the college and perhaps even done an overnight stay.”

    VanDeVelde says, “Pressure comes from peers, parents, newspaper headlines — and students themselves. We know that in October of senior year, it may seem like everyone is jumping on the early bandwagon. But there is nothing wrong with sitting out this round and opting for more time and the greater choice it allows.”

    If you have even a small doubt about where you want to go, apply during regular decision. Waiting to apply until January gives you a few extra months to adequately research and visit schools, improve your senior grades and/or standardized test scores, and polish your application and essays until they shine.

    Even if you do apply ED, your counselor will encourage you to make sure you have all your other applications ready to go. There’s nothing worse than getting rejected from an early-decision school and then having to scramble to meet other schools’ regular decision deadlines.

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    Chloe Patel

    Chloe Patel

    Chloe Patel is a recent graduate at Boston University, where she studied advertising and journalism. At BU, Chloe was the editor-in-chief of The Daily Free Press, BU's independent student-run newspaper. She also held roles as sports editor and layout and graphic editor at the publication. From Walpole, Massachusetts, Chloe enjoys the winning ways of Boston-area sports, including the Bruins, the Patriots and PWHL Boston.