College Admissions: Demystifying Early Admission
Monday, August 29, 2011
Early Decision (ED) is the most restrictive of the programs.
Students may only apply to one college early decision, and if accepted they MUST attend. This is a binding program, and you are required to sign an agreement stating that you will matriculate at the college if accepted, and that you will withdraw any pending applications at other colleges upon acceptance. Deadlines usually fall in November and students are typically notified before Christmas if they are accepted, rejected or being deferred to the regular decision round. If you apply ED, you must be absolutely certain that the college is your first choice. The upside of ED is that at many schools the acceptance rate is dramatically higher. Columbia University had an early decision acceptance rate for the class of 2015 of 20% and a regular decision rate of just 6%. Last year, Cornell accepted 35% of early decision candidates, but just 16% of regular decision applicants, and Brown took approximately 20% in the ED round, but just over 7% during regular decision. The downside to ED is that you can’t change your mind during senior year about where you want to go, and you don’t get a chance to compare financial aid packages. However, many colleges offering ED do have generous need-based financial aid.
Early Decision II-Follows the same principles as ED, but is a later second round of Early Decision which some colleges are adding.
It often falls a month or two after ED I and allows students a bit more time to solidify their commitment. In some cases, if a student is rejected or deferred in the ED I round at one college, they may be able to play out ED II at a second school (but only if they have received a letter of rejection or deferral before the ED II deadline). Statistics are just emerging on this new trend, but it would seem that ED I acceptance rates are usually higher than ED II.
Early Action (EA) and Priority Plans
These are much less restrictive programs than Early Decision because students may apply to several colleges under Early Action and Priority Decision rules, but they have until the spring to tell a college if they will attend. Deadlines usually fall in November and December, and decisions are issued in about 4-8 weeks. Students can be accepted, rejected or deferred to regular decision. Although not quite as favorable statistically as ED, most colleges do accept a higher percentage of students during EA. The advantage is that if accepted, some students find senior year less stressful. There are very few disadvantages since you aren’t locked into attending under EA or Priority plans. Families can also play out all their financial aid options at a variety of schools (unlike ED), and some colleges issue more favorable aid packages earlier in the admissions season when money is more plentiful.
Restrictive or Single Choice Early Action
A few colleges like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Georgetown and Boston College have opted to craft specific rules for their Early Action programs which may preclude you from applying to other colleges Early Decision or Early Action. You must read the individual rules very carefully for these programs; they vary from school to school.
Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.
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