5 Reasons You May Want to Rethink Applying Early Decision

Michelle Chan
Michelle Chan

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Applying Early Decision (ED) means a better chance of getting in, right? You may want to think again. There are other factors that contribute toward making that final decision besides higher acceptance rates and smaller applicant pools. So applying early might not be the right direction for you. At the very least, we recommend you rethink applying early to be sure it’s your smartest move.

1. A higher acceptance rate is not always beneficial.

Generally, early admission has higher acceptance rates than regular admission. According to Ivy Coach, Harvard University accepted 21.1% of its early applicants in 2018 compared to only 5.9% of its regular decision applicants––that’s a whopping 15% difference. However, this is not always advantageous. In fact, the applicant pool could be even more competitive than its regular admission counterparts. ED applicants tend to consist of higher qualified candidates, making it harder to stand out.

2. Getting into a school is one thing, but being able to afford it is another.

You may have gotten into your dream school, but financial aid still plays a significant part in making that final decision. Applying ED prevents you from comparing financial aid packages to ones of other schools. You will only receive one financial aid offer from an ED acceptance, so if you are unsure if you can afford attending, you need to decide if it’s worth taking the risk. For those of you who are banking on comparing options, you might rethink applying early like this.

3. You must be 100% sure you want to attend this school.

Early decision is a binding contract, meaning that accepted applicants are automatically committed to the school. However, students who apply ED to more than one school—or, later on, wish to commit to another school—may face serious consequences. If a college finds out that a student has broken the ED agreement, the student’s other college acceptances may get rescinded.

4. Are you applying for the right reasons?

One mistake students often make is choosing the most prestigious school on their list rather than the school of the best fit. College is a place for self-discovery and to explore new things. After all, you’ll be spending four years of your life there.

When I was choosing which college to attend, I was deciding between a school in the top twenty rankings and another, which was both far from home and lower ranked. But my gut feeling told me to explore that faraway institution where I believed I had a better chance of flourishing (instead of being miserable at a place I did not fit into). Applying ED eliminates that critical decision; and it could commit you to a school you don’t see yourself attending anymore in the end.

5. You’re still waiting on an SAT/ACT score.

Let’s say your standardized test scores have not been up to par and you’re hoping that the ACT you take in October is the last chance to increase your score. If the ED deadline is November 1st, you won’t be able to view the score before it’s sent in. This is one reason to be ready to rethink applying early as your best option. Although a stellar SAT/ACT score isn’t the be-all end-all of guaranteeing college admissions, it’s still an important factor in determining whether your application will even be considered or not. Unless you are confident about a standardized test score you have yet to receive, applying ED is a risk you may want to reevaluate.

Early Decision certainly has many benefits, and I am not trying to trivialize those. If you feel strong in all components of the college application process and are certain of your first school of choice, feel free to apply ED to your heart’s content. But be sure to acknowledge all consequences of applying early and take the time to really think over your application before you hit “Submit.”

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