Many students come in this time of year asking if they should apply to a school early decision. There are a few pros and cons to weigh out before making this decision.
Applying early means that you get an answer sooner. Students will typically receive a decision in December or January, making for a shorter process. This can alleviate some stress about applying.
Sometimes there is a higher acceptance rate for students applying early decision. For some schools, there is a statistical advantage to applying early decision. Some schools prefer to fill student seats earlier - schools are playing a numbers game, too, and want to get a target class size. They like having a sure answer about whether or not a student will attend. Your school counselor can help you look at statistics for a particular school to see if there is an advantage to applying early.
Applying early decision means that you have less of an opportunity to compare financial aid. As I wrote last week, early decision is binding - once you are accepted and given an adequate financial aid package, you must attend. If your family wants to weigh out several financial aid packages between different schools, it's best to wait until regular decision.
Applying early decision restricts you to one school. Early decision is best for students applying to a dream school. It is for students who have their hearts set on a certain college, and who know that they will be happy there. Students who are wavering between colleges or who are unsure should wait to apply regular decision so that they can compare their options.
How do I make this decision?
Applying early decision is a big choice, and one that deserves a lot of thought. If you are considering applying early decision, you should do the following:
- Make an appointment with your school counselor to go over details and figure out if this is a good plan for you.
- Talk to your parents about your financial situation -- you may have fewer options if you apply early decision. Also also talk about what life will look like going to this college.
- Think about your life at this college - if you are accepted, you will attend. How will day-to-day life be? Think about the academics, social environment, sports, clubs, location, etc.
- Visit the college and contact them if you have any questions. They can probably put you in touch with professors or current students to better answer your questions.