Is Early Decision Right for You?

We have received several questions from students and parents over the last several weeks regarding submission deadlines for college admissions applications.  The main question is for clarification of the different terms: Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling Admission and just applying early.  The main difference in these three options has to do with the deadline date and if the decision is binding.

The most restrictive option is Early Decision.  This option requires the admission application to be submitted by an early deadline and also is a binding decision; meaning if accepted by the college, the student must withdraw their applications at other colleges and accept admission.  The benefit to applying Early Decision is that you will find out if you are accepted sooner (usually before the end of the calendar year), which many student athletes find beneficial due to commitment deadlines.  The risk in Early Decision is that you will not be able to compare financial aid packages to other colleges to choose the most affordable one in the end and cannot use other college aid packages as leverage when negotiating for additional financial aid.  There have been several studies that have sought to determine if the student has a better chance of admission if they apply Early Decision, but those studies have been largely inconclusive.  There is a smaller pool of applicants under Early Decision so your applications may receive more attention under this option, but if you do not fit the school’s criteria for admission, you will not be accepted.  If your ability to attend a specific college hinges on the amount of financial aid you will receive, we do not recommend this option.  The only way out of this binding option is to prove that you cannot afford to attend the college- this can be difficult to prove.  If you fail and do not attend, you cannot attend another college for one academic year.

The next option is Early Action.  Early Action, like Early Decision, requires the admission application to be submitted early, but is not a binding decision.  The student has the benefit of finding out if they are accepted early, but does not have to make the decision to attend until May 1st.  This grants the student the security of knowing they were accepted, but they can wait to see what other colleges accept them and can compare financial aid packages.  If their top college will cost more, they can appeal for additional aid- using a better aid package as leverage.  This is a great option for students who do not need to take their SAT/ACT again during the winter of their senior year and who have their application ready to submit without rushing to meet the early deadline.

Rolling Admission does not have an early deadline, but means that colleges will start reviewing applications as them come in- a First In, First Out process.  We recommend that all students apply early.  It is a good idea to aim to submit all your college applications before Thanksgiving (next week!).  This ensures you meet all deadlines and gives you time to search for scholarships and enjoy the holiday season with your family.

Questions about these decisions, deadlines or admissions options?  Give us a call!  We’re here to help.

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