The Real Impact of Applying Early Decision

Take these points into consideration if applying early decision.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 24, 2015

The Real Impact of Applying Early Decision

With the end of October come early decision deadlines at many colleges across the country. What used to be an application deadline that would garner a small number of applications, it’s now a preferred deadline for many applicants as it is now offered at about 450 colleges and universities. And there are a few reasons why.

First, it takes the stress of waiting for a college decision in the spring because applicants generally learn whether or not they were admitted in December. If a student is applying early decision to their number one choice, they get to learn sooner whether or not all of their college dreams are coming true. Finally, if an applicant has a very borderline application, i.e. poor grades and test scores, an early decision admittance can guarantee that they will go to college.

Generally, high school counselors and admissions officers will urge students that have their heart set on a specific school or who have little chance of actually getting into a college, to apply early decision because it actually helps your chances of admittance.

Harvard professor Christopher Avery, co-author of The Early Admissions Game, found that applying early decision actually increases your chances of getting into a college by 30%, as reported by TIME. He states that it’s the same as scoring 100 points higher on your SAT.

That’s pretty good news.

However, at the same time, there can also be a negative impact to your application – or rather, your chances for financial aid and scholarships – by applying early decision.

TIME points out that early decision is binding, and financial aid packages don’t hit mailboxes until spring. Students that have applied early decision could find themselves in a bad predicament if their financial aid package doesn’t meet their need. What do they do now? Back out of their binding agreement without any backup colleges because they only applied to one school?

It’s also believed that many colleges save more of their merit aid to hand out in the spring to those students that are on the fence or undecided as to where they want to attend, which TIME acknowledges as well. At that point in the game, colleges are using merit aid as a recruiting tool to entice students that have several offers on the table. Early decision applicants, therefore, may be missing out on some scholarship money.

If you plan to apply early decision, take these pros and cons into account. Is your early decision school worth it? If so, go for it! If you’re on the fence about these factors, consider early action instead. Early action is non-binding, and you can apply early action to more than one school. The time at which you would find out if you have been admitted is just a few weeks later, but with that time comes a lot more wiggle room as you make your final college decision.

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