College Early Admissions Program Analysis – Early Decision

The Early Decision Program is a binding decision between the applicant and the college. Students are only able to submit one early decision application to one college. If accepted, the student must enroll at that particular university. Applying early decision reduces a student’s stress by cutting the time spent waiting for their particular admissions decision.

Typically, early decision applicants receive their decision notification by December 15, while regular decision applicants have to wait until April 1 to receive their decision notification. If accepted through this program, the student will end up saving substantial money and time and be able to take any higher-level classes without worrying about grades since they won’t have to submit any additional applications. The most attractive aspect of early decision programs has to do with the higher applicant acceptance rate. At Dartmouth, the admission acceptance rate of ED applicants is 26% while the admission acceptance rate of regular decision applicants is 8%. However, the higher admission rate for early admissions applicants typically correlated to stronger applicant profiles. Therefore if you are not a strong candidate, early admissions programs may be not the right fit for you.

If the particular school you are interested in doesn’t have an early decision program, chances are they instead have an early action program. The Early Action Program is very similar to the early decision program. This program gives students the benefit of early notification without the binding obligation of early decision. Some of the Ivy League universities have a more specific early action program called single-choice early action. This program restricts applicants from applying early action to other private universities. However, applicants do have the freedom to apply early action to public universities and regular decision to private universities.

Summary of Benefits of Applying for Early Decision:

1) Increase chances of being accepted by as much as two or three times than as a regular decision applicant if the student is a strong candidate. For example, at Dartmouth, the admission acceptance rate of ED applicants is 26% while the admission acceptance rate of regular decision applicants is 8%.

2) Receive admission status no later than December 15. Regular decision applicants find out their college’s decision around April 1.

3) Save the expense the student would have ended up spending applying to several regular decision schools.

4) Reduce the stress by planning early and receiving the decision early. If accepted, the student is free to take any higher-level classes without being concerned with the grades.

Summary of Drawbacks of Applying for Early Decision:

1) Reduced financial aid opportunities.
Students who apply under the early decision program receive offers of admission and financial aid simultaneously. Since this program has a binding decision and limits the student to one university, the university has all the bargaining power and can severely limit its financial aid package to a particular student. The student has no leverage to negotiate a better financial aid package since the school knows you can’t go anywhere else. For students who absolutely need financial aid, applying early decision may be a risky option.

2) Limited time (sometimes just two weeks) to complete regular admissions applications, if the student is not accepted in any early decision programs.
Therefore, it is extremely important for those students applying through any early admittance programs to begin filling out regular decision applications while they are waiting to receive their admission decisions from their early admittance programs.

3) Students applying to any early admittance program must take the October SAT in order for those scores to be considered on their early applications.

4) If the student reneges on an early decision obligation to a school, it is unlikely that another competing school will accept the person. However, the student can seek release from the obligation based on the reasons of financial hardship with substantial proof, if the financial aid package offered is in deed inadequate.

5) The opportunity cost by forgoing all other options and just committing a crucial four-years period of a person’s life and all associated expenses to one particular institution.

6) The college may rescind the offer should a student’s senior-year grades drop.

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