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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

How to Know if You Should Apply Early Decision

Early decision is an option some universities offer as a part of the admissions process. Early decision is a process where prospective students can apply early and learn early whether or not they have received admission or denial. The catch is, if the student is offered admission, they must attend the university. The application is binding.

This is a huge advantage for many students who have their heart set on a certain school. However, it is something that requires careful consideration. For more information on different application deadlines- early decision, early action, and regular decision, you can check out this blog.

Here are some of the reasons why you may want to apply early decision and some reasons why you may want to choose a different application deadline.

Why You Should

It’s important to note that the early decision application is not anything unique from the regular decision application. The same information is required, it’s simply an earlier submission deadline.

Early decision may be a good option if your heart is set on a certain school.

But, it’s important that a school doesn’t just seem appealing to you. Make sure that you have done thorough research to understand the pros and cons of the university and how you might fit in on campus. Also take a look at the financial cost of that school and what might be a probable scholarship package.

Remember that early decision is binding and you can only apply to one school early decision. Therefore, you shouldn’t make the decision unless you are confident in your love of the school.

Early decision is advantageous when you are positive of your feelings because it shows the university how serious you are about attending. Additionally, it may improve your chances of admission. Statistics show that schools accept a higher percentage of early decision applicants than regular applicants. For example, in 2015 the acceptance rate for early decision applicants at Brown was 20.6%. At Cornell it was 39%. These percentages are drastically higher than their typical acceptance rates for regular decision applicants which are around 7% and 16% respectively.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, early decision candidates may be more competitive applicants. They are willing to apply early with their current GPA and test scores likely because these scores are higher than average. Additionally, colleges have an incentive to accept more early decision applicants because it gives them more control of their incoming class. Additionally, it means that they will receive a higher percentage of applicants who say yes to admissions offers which serves the school’s reputation well.

Early decision is also appealing to prospective students because if you are in love with the school, there is no harm. Even if you are denied admission initially, at most universities you are still allowed to apply again at the normal admissions deadline.

Of course, part of the appeal of early decision is that if you are accepted, the application process ends early. You don’t have to deal with the stress of applications anymore, you know where you’re going to attend, and you can enjoy the rest of senior year festivities without a weight hanging over your head. You can also save money on other application fees. Some students spend hundreds of dollars on application fees during the admissions process. If you apply and are accepted early decision, that’s another financial stress you don’t have to worry about.

Why You Should Not

If you're not one hundred percent certain of the university you want to attend by the early decision deadline, you shouldn’t apply early decision. Applying early decision obviously requires applying early. Sometimes we aren’t sure that early on in the process which university we want to attend. Don’t apply early decision if you’re not sure. Remember, if you apply early decision and are accepted, you don’t get to change your mind.

In that case, early action may be a better option. If you’re someone who likes to plan, early action still allows you to find out your admissions status early without rushing your decision.

Another con of early decision applications is that students are unable to compare financial aid offers from various schools. It is permissible to turn down an early decision application acceptance if the financial aid package is not feasible. However, if it is an acceptable package, students are unable to compare other options. Perhaps they could have received a full ride somewhere else but they’ll never know due to their early decision application.

Additionally, applying early decision means that there is less time to work on your application. There is less time to improve your GPA or test scores like the SAT and ACT and less time to perfect your personal statement. If you want to make the application deadline, you have to be okay with your scores as they currently are, prior to your first semester of senior year.

After Applying Early Decision

If you decide to apply early decision, what do you do next? It’s recommended to continue considering other options in the chance that you aren’t accepted to the university where you applied early decision. You can even continue working on other applications.

If a school you’re interested in has a submission deadline before you hear back from the school, you should submit that application. Just remember, if you are accepted early decision, you will have to withdraw all other applications. If you are rejected from your early decision school, you’ll already have other options in the works.


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