October 15 or November 1st are common Early Decision (ED) deadlines at many schools. You’ve heard applying Early Decision will increase your odds of acceptance.
What is Early Decision?
First, not all schools offer Early Decision and you can only apply to one school ED indicating this school is your first choice. For those that apply ED, it is a firm commitment to withdraw all other regular and Early Action (non-binding) applications from other schools and enroll in the Early Decision school if accepted.
At 16, 17, or 18, a firm commitment to anything but what you’re doing this weekend is HUGE in the grand scope of life. For the students I work with, I encourage them to think long and hard before applying ED. Honestly, I don’t think it’s for most teens.
Ask yourself these four questions before you hit submit on an ED application.
1. Is this my clear first choice? After all of the visits, online comparisons, and other interactions with the schools, does this school stand out head and shoulders above the other schools you looked at? If not, ED is not for you.
2. Is there even a 5% chance I could change my mind about attending this school? If so, ED is not for you. I’ve worked with teenagers since 1991 and am the parent of three grown children and stepparent of our two oldest. One thing I most certainly know is they tend to change their minds even into their 20’s. What causes them to change their minds can vary from mood to friends to the weather or something in between. I’m not kidding about the weather. A snowstorm in Ohio can have one thinking a school in the South is much more attractive. Or a hurricane in Florida can leave one scurrying for the fall colors of the Midwest.
3. Do I need to compare aid packages? If you are accepted at an ED school, you won’t have an opportunity to see aid packages before committing to attend. Schools do indicate if their package is terribly insufficient for your need then you may be granted a release from your binding commitment. However, often at this point, a student’s heart is at that school before their body. My concern is a student forges ahead with disregard for college debt.
4. Am I certain of my major and future career? Many students spend much of the senior year figuring out what the future looks like beyond college. That is why LEAP has so many seniors participating in our LEAP Fit 2 Flourish Coaching focusing on best-fit future careers and life flourish.
Who Should Apply ED?
The rare teen who:
- Never changes his or her mind
- Is committed to a particular major and the school offers it
- Paying for college is not a concern
- Has no need to retake the ACT or SAT to increase admission and scholarship odds