Early Admissions- is it for me?
By Tina Wu | Senior Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions
Early Admission Programs vary by US colleges, with the most common ones as Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). ED and EA deadlines typically fall on November 1, and students can expect to hear back from colleges by mid-December. The major difference? ED is a binding commitment, and students are expected to attend the college if admitted under ED. EA, on the other hand, allows students until May 1 to make the final decision amongst other colleges that have given them offers.
Most US colleges offer EA or ED option, or sometimes both. A small number of colleges offer Restrictive Early Action (REA), which does not commit students to attend if accepted but restricts students from applying ED to other schools. An increasing number of schools have started to offer ED 2, with an application date that typically falls between January 1 to January 15 (often the same as regular decision date).
Pros of Early Decision
Admission officers often explain ED by simplifying the rationale: if our school is your first choice, apply under ED! But students often fail to understand why colleges prefer ED applicants. From a college’s perspective, ED enrolls students who are not only eager but committed to attending. The yield rate from ED acceptance will be 100% after all, unless students must decline due to insufficient financial aid as a result of a drastic change in family circumstances.
ED helps admission officers to do their jobs better: it minimizes either over or under-enrollment for the incoming class. Most colleges have a significantly higher admission rate under Early Decision. Take Cornell University as an example: Cornell’s Class of 2023 overall acceptance rate was at 10.6 percent, with early decision acceptance rate at 22.6% and regular decision (RD) rate at 9.2%, respectively.
Some colleges have admission rates two or even three times higher for ED applicants compared with RD applicants, and these schools fill from a third to over a half of their freshman classes from this early pool. To maximize your chances of being accepted to an elite college, ED is your best tool.
And let’s be honest, how great would it be if you get accepted to your ED school in December? You will be able to celebrate Christmas and spring utterly free of the anxiety of college decisions!
But is Early Decision really for me?
Because ED is a binding commitment, you need to be absolutely sure about your school choice! As college counselors, we sometimes come across valid reasons why students don’t choose to take advantage of ED:
- Your first choice college is a UC school (or even another university overseas)
Some colleges in the US don’t offer ED, and the University of California (UC) is one of them! In the past, I have worked with students whose first choice is UC Berkeley/ UCLA, barring them from applying to other colleges under ED.
Some students also apply to top US and UK schools. If your first choice is a UK (or any other overseas) university, we’d also advise against applying ED to a US school.
- Financial Consideration
Some students would want to compare college offers and see the amount of scholarship or financial aid each school can give. This is especially true for US citizens who are entitled to federal financial aid when applying to colleges.
- You need more time to build a better application!
To be a good ED candidate, you need to start preparing early: you need to have strong grades, profile, and standardized test scores when you apply. This is why your junior year (for IB students, your Year 12) is extremely important.
Because the deadline for ED 1 falls on November 1, you need to have all your standardized test scores ready by October. Sometimes a student can make a strategic decision to apply under regular decision; it may be because he/she can get stronger grades, score better on SAT/ ACT, or is planning to complete a stellar project.
Early decision is just one of the many strategies students use to maximize their chances of getting into their dream schools in the US, and if you’re interested in learning how to boost your profile or to craft an outstanding application, book a free consultation with us!
Sources: Cornell University
Ms. Tina Wu
Senior Admissions Counselor
Member of NACAC & IECA
M.B.A., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)
BSc. In Accounting and Finance, New York University – Stern School of Business
- A passionate mentor to students
- Emphasis on understanding and developing her students’ strengths, positioning their potential to admissions office in the best possible light
- Over 10 years of experience in helping students gain admissions to top boarding schools and colleges in the U.S.
- Matriculation includes: Cornell University, University of Michigan, NYU, University of Virginia, UCLA and UC Berkeley
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