Applying Early and Financial Aid

Applying Early Decision, Applying Early Action, Financial Aid

Ivy Coach salutes the important work that Harold O. Levy did for New York City’s public schools. But we disagree with him on his arguments against Early Decision and Early Action policies (photo credit: Anthonybaracat).

Harold O. Levy is a former chancellor of the New York City public schools and we have long been fans of his work for students from underpriviledged backgrounds seeking to attend our nation’s most highly selective universities. His is a voice in higher education we greatly respect. After all, this was a man who, in the face of much opposition (including from the then-New York City mayor), wisely used his business acumen and reliance on data-driven analytics to reform one of America’s most notoriously broken school systems. Yesterday, Mr. Levy posted a piece on “Inside Higher Ed” about the discrimination that he believes is inherent in Early Decision and Early Action admissions policies. And while we respect his viewpoint, we can’t help but respectfully disagree.

Mr. Levy believes that Early Decision and Early Action policies at America’s universities unfairly discriminate against low-income and minority students. As he writes, “Many low-income students are unaware of the option of applying early…Guidance counselors at high schools with many low-income students are responsible for advising hundreds or as many as 1,000 students each, and so don’t have the time and, in many cases, the training to explain all the steps students can take to increase their odds of college admission…Most important, because low-income students can’t attend college without getting substantial financial aid, they can’t commit to enrolling in an institution by applying on an early-decision basis. They need to compare aid offers once they hear from all the colleges and universities that accept them. This fact alone essentially precludes those with financial need from applying early.”

We absolutely agree with Mr. Levy that school counselors at high schools with low-income students need to be better informed about the benefits of applying Early. They need to be better trained, to have a better understanding of the whole highly selective college admissions process. But we absolutely disagree with his argument that applying Early essentially ‘precludes’ students who need financial aid from applying. It’s an argument that Mr. Levy uses to essentially disqualify the practice of Early Decision and Early Action policies so let’s take a moment to analyze it.

There is absolutely no reason that a student who needs financial aid shouldn’t apply through a school’s Early Decision or Early Action policy. The whole theory presented by Mr. Levy has been outdated ever since the advent of the Net Price Calculator. We encourage our readers to Google any college name with the words “Net Price Calculator.” By doing so, a family can get a very good estimate of their net costs at that particular college. Colleges expect applicants to do their homework. They expect them to use the NPC.

We applaud the spirit of Mr. Levy’s remarks on Early Decision and Early action policies. But his central argument branding these policies as discriminatory against low-income students is, in a word, outdated.

So the whole notion of needing to “compare financial aid offers” may have held water back in the 1990’s when Mr. Levy was making very admirable reforms to our New York City public schools, but it’s an outmoded argument now. There is absolutely no reason that a student from a low-income family can’t apply Early Decision or Early Action armed with the knowledge of what they’ll be expected to pay for each year of college. Do we need to continue to get the word out to school counselors at low-income schools to tout the benefits of applying Early? You bet. But let’s leave arguments that made sense when Rudolph Giuliani was New York City’s mayor in the past. Like Rudy, it’s where they belong. Oh no we didn’t. We did.

Can universities do a better job of encouraging students from low-income families to apply Early? Yes. Can everyone do a better job of getting the word out that students don’t need to compare financial aid packages to have an idea of what they’ll be expected to pay at a given university? Yes. Is the current Early Decision and Early Action pool generally more affluent than the Regular Decision pool at most highly selective universities? Regrettably, yes. But there are enormous benefits to such policies — benefits Mr. Levy articulately points out in his piece — not only for the schools but also for the students. And there is absolutely no reason that students from low-income families can’t too capitalize on the benefits of these policies to receive an education at the college of their dreams, an education their family will be able to subsidize with financial aid.

Johns Hopkins Class of 2021

JHU 2021, JHU Class of 2021, 2021 at Hopkins

Congratulations to all students admitted to be members of the JHU Class of 2021!

Johns Hopkins University has released data on its Early Decision pool for the Class of 2021 and we’ve got it for our readers. In all, 591 students who applied Early Decision to the Baltimore-based school have been offered admission to be members of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2021. Congratulations to our students who are among the 591! These 591 students were selected out of a batch of 1,934 applicants to the university (5 more than for the last Early Decision cycle at JHU!), marking an admission rate of about 30.5%.

Johns Hopkins University loves its wind surfers, its science researchers, and its social activists.

But admissions statistics are only so interesting. We love it when colleges tout the students in their incoming classes with more specifics. As Johns Hopkins writes of its incoming class, “This group of early decision applicants includes nationally recognized researchers, innovators in various fields, artists, published authors, and social activists. Among them are the author of a bilingual cookbook, the founder of a non-profit that raises money for girls from low-income families who are interested in STEM fields, a nationally-ranked fencer, a children’s book writer, an advocate for food allergy laws, and an internationally competitive windsurfer.” At Ivy Coach, we have a long history of our students being personally referenced in these very kinds of admissions releases. It’s a great point of pride for us!

Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who have been admitted to be members of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2021. Go Blue Jays!

Early Decision at Dartmouth

ED at Dartmouth, Dartmouth College Early Decision, Early Applications to Dartmouth

Ivy Coach is cited today on the pages of “The Dartmouth.”

Ivy Coach is featured today in America’s oldest college newspaper, “The Dartmouth.” In the piece in Dartmouth College’s newspaper written by Joyce Lee entitled “Early decision students to comprise 47 percent of class,” the Founder of Ivy Coach, Bev Taylor, praises Dartmouth for its outreach in the last couple of years in particular to international applicants. While Dartmouth, like just about all highly selective colleges, have been trying to woo international applicants for many years, Dartmouth in particular has made strides in this department over the last few years and we’ve taken notice.

As Lee writes, “Bev Taylor, founder of college admissions consulting firm Ivy Coach, said that Dartmouth has been working to have more international applicants and has seen an increase in its application numbers over the past two years. She said that the increase in applications and their quality, as well as the diversity in the pool, was cause for praise.”

As the piece points out, more and more students are (wisely) applying Early these days too. Just think about it — 47% of Dartmouth’s incoming first-year class is already filled before the Regular Decision round. That means almost half the slots are taken. To not apply Early, to not use one’s Early card wisely is to make a costly mistake in highly selective college admissions.

As Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin states, “Over the last ten years, more students are being counseled to apply early somewhere, and college counselors say half or two-thirds of their senior class file an early decision or early action application…That’s a growing trend that’s showing up in our pool too. There’s a consciousness about early decision, as a strategy.” You bet there is.

Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who earned admission to Dartmouth via Early Decision this year…to be members of the Dartmouth College Class of 2021!

Tufts Class of 2021

Tufts 2021, 2021 at Tufts, The Class of 2021 at Tufts University

Well hello there, Jumbo!

Tufts University has released its figures for the first of two rounds of Early Decision — for the Class of 2021. In all, 574 students have already been turned into elephants. We mean Jumbos. And in a refreshing change of pace, the new dean of admissions — unlike the dean at just about every other highly selective university — didn’t reference the number of applicants or even the admission rate in her post about the first round of Early Decision at Tufts.

As Tufts’ Dean of Admissions Karen Richardson writes on the Tufts admissions blog, “The first 574 Jumbos in the Class of 2021 have been revealed! They hail from 30 countries and 39 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, want to major in everything from Peace and Justice Studies to Earth and Ocean Sciences to Mechanical Engineering, and do everything from caring for younger siblings to excelling in a variety of sports to doing carpentry in their spare time. Connections are already being made through Facebook and other social media platforms. My colleagues are gearing up to begin reading even MORE applications for ED II and Regular Decision. And I’m heaving a GIANT sigh of relief.”

We love it when deans of admission call out specific applicants — not by name but through their stories. Like the student who enjoys carpentry. We’re all about the carpentry kids! That is wonderfully weird and as regular readers of our college admissions blog know well, we’re all about wonderful weirdness. In fact, our students are so often so weird that we have a long history of our students getting called out in these very kinds of press releases.

UPenn Class of 2021

UPenn 2021, 2021 at Penn, University of Pennsylvania Class of 2021

Penn has a history of filling a major chunk of its incoming class in the Early Decision round.

The numbers are in for the Early Decision pool at UPenn for the Class of 2021! The University of Pennsylvania has a history of filling a sizable chunk of its incoming classes through its Early Decision program. This year, for the University of Pennsylvania Class of 2021, has proven to be no exception. Of the record-breaking 6,147 students who applied Early Decision to the University of Pennsylvania this Early Decision admissions cycle, 1,354 earned admission — marking an admission rate for the Early Decision round of 22%. This bests last year’s Early Decision admission rate, which stood at 23.2%.

As Julia Bell reports in “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” “So far, Penn’s incoming class includes students from 46 states and 44 foreign countries. Penn also partnered with over 40 community-based organizations that represent underserved students, like the national nonprofit program QuestBridge and Philadelphia’s Steppingstone Scholars program. Penn typically admits around half of its total class in the Early Decision round. Last year, 55 percent of the total 2,445 spots available were filled by Early Decision applicants.”

And, marking a first in the university’s storied history, half of all students admitted to Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were female this year. Of course, the trendsetter in this department remains Dartmouth College but how cool it is that other highly selective colleges are following in Dartmouth’s wake!

Harvard Early Action Decisions

Harvard ED Decisions, Early Action at Harvard, Early Harvard Results

One can rarely prepare for a flood. We don’t even try. We turn off our electronic devices and go into hiding. We kid, we kid — you’ll understand more after reading this piece (photo credit: Bidgee).

The Harvard Early Action decisions are out! Run for the hills, for higher ground! The floodgates usually open the day that Harvard releases its Early Action decisions. The main office phone rings off the hook (we don’t answer it, as our voice message and the permanent Nelson Mandela banner on our homepage instructs — “Don’t call us. [We’ll email] you.”). The emails come in. The free consult forms are completed. We’re not sure why it all typically starts with Harvard but we’ve been doing this long enough to know to close our electronic devices immediately upon the release of Harvard decisions — except of course to check in with our students who’ve applied Early to Harvard. It’s like boarding a plane. “Please turn off all electronic devices.” We adhere to the instructions of flight attendants on Harvard’s decision day even if we’re not up in the air.

It never ceases to amaze us how confident so many parents are that their children will earn admission. Maybe they think their children are simply the greatest (it’s very common). Or maybe they didn’t think they needed the assistance of a private college counselor (now they know otherwise). Or maybe they just thought they had it in the bag because they were legacy applicants and Grandpa Harry had donated a building in 1964. Either which way, when the children of these parents receive word they’ve been deferred or denied, they have this awakening. And while that’s all well and good, there are literally only two weeks left before most Regular Decision applications are due after this great awakening.

Even more interesting, most parents of students who are deferred are solely focused on turning this deferral into an offer of admission when they contact us after their awakening. We always want to reawaken them like Kate Chopin. Hello parents! Your focus during the next two weeks before most Regular Decision applications are due should be on not making the same mistakes your children made with their Early Decision or Early Action schools. Duh. Of course your child wants to make the best case possible to their Early school — but that’s not nearly as time sensitive as correcting mistakes on Regular Decision applications. Because if your child didn’t get in Early, there likely were mistakes — sometimes big ones — that could very well have cost your child admission.

But alas these parents are horses led to water who do not wish to drink. They usually remain focused on that deferral — and turning it into an offer of admission (which we at Ivy Coach help students do better than anyone but it still should not be their focus in mid-December!). Sigh.

An Early Decision Myth

Early Decision, Myth of Early Decision, Early Decision Myths

Students who don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action waste a valuable card in their back pocket (photo credit: Jazz-Face).

One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process. These misconceptions are put out there in the press, by high school counselors (not all high school counselors are experts in college admissions…in fact, most aren’t), by the neighbor’s third cousin once removed, and by just about everyone in between. But it’s the high school counselors that often frustrate us the most. What’s the expression? A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to many high school counselors giving advice on highly selective college admissions.

The Founder on Ivy Coach was a high school counselor on Long Island for many years and she was always so frustrated that so many of the counselors advising students were simply giving incorrect advice. But allow us to show, not tell — as we tell our students in their college admissions essays. Half Hollow Hills is a prestigious school district on Long Island. Online, they’ve published advice on the pros and cons of applying Early Decision or Early Action. In it, they write, “Some colleges will say that students have a better chance of admission if they apply early using early decision, but it really depends upon the applicant pool and how selective the college is overall. A student shouldn’t count on early decision to increase his chances of admission greatly, but if he is sure that this college is the one, it won’t hurt his chances if he lets them know that he cares enough to make this early commitment.”

Too many high school college counseling offices perpetuate falsehoods about highly selective college admissions — like completely understating the advantage of applying through Early Decision and Early Action policies.

This is false. Applying Early always helps a student’s case for admission. Just look at the clear and unequivocal data on the statistical advantage of applying through an Early policy as compared to through a Regular Decision policy. It doesn’t depend upon the applicant pool. And not only will it not “hurt” one’s chances to apply Early — it’ll vastly help one’s chances! How on earth could it hurt a student’s chances of getting in to make a binding commitment to a school, to show that school they’re loved above all other schools? Come on, Half Hollow Hills. Get it together and stop perpetuating college admissions myths. It only makes the admissions process more confusing and more stressful for students and parents alike.

What college admissions myths is your high school’s college counseling office perpetuating? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.

The Competitive Edge of Early Decision

Early Decision Edge, Early Decision, Applying Early Decision

There was recently an editorial on Early Decision in “The New York Times” by Frank Bruni.

There’s an editorial in “The New York Times” by Frank Bruni entitled “The Plague of ‘Early Decision’” that we figured we’d discuss on the pages of our college admissions blog. We are never shy about correcting Mr. Bruni when he states inaccuracies or misleads his readers about the highly selective college admissions process, a topic he writes about extensively. And today will be no exception.

In his editorial on Early Decision, Mr. Bruni writes, “There’s plenty of evidence that applying early improves odds of admission and that the students who do so — largely to gain a competitive edge — come disproportionately from privileged backgrounds with parents and counselors who know how to game the system and can assemble the necessary test scores and references by the November deadline.” ‘Who know how to game the system?’ Mr. Bruni, how is it ‘gaming a system’ to apply by November 1st? How is it gaming a system to have one application completed two months before most other students get their acts together to first apply? Is to be organized, forward-thinking, and strategic to game a system? Please. Nonsense.

We’re actually not quite done with our rhetorical questions to Mr. Bruni. We’re just warming up! How is it gaming a system to examine clear and unequivocal data, to notice that highly selective colleges fill major portions of their incoming classes in the Early round, to see that admission rates are much more favorable if students apply by November 1st? Is making decisions based on data gaming a system? If so, Mr. Bruni, don’t bother watching baseball (Billy Beane who?). Don’t watch college football. Don’t go to a hospital if you’re in need of care and certainly don’t invest in the stock market. Our world operates on data and the suggestion that college applicants who apply Early Decision because the data suggests this is a wise move is gaming a system is just plain preposterous. Choose your words more carefully, Mr. Bruni.

Williams College Class of 2021

Williams 2021, Williams College 2021, Class of 2021 at Williams

Williams College admitted 257 students in the Early Decision round, to be members of the Class of 2021 (photo credit: Tim4403224246).

The Early Decision data is in the books for the Williams College Class of 2021. In all, 257 students earned admission to the Williamstown, Massachusetts liberal arts college out of a record number of Early Decision applicants. In a 25% increase year-to-year, 728 students ended up applying this Early Decision cycle to Williams. That truly is a major uptick in highly selective college admissions. 25%. Wow. And, like at Dartmouth College, this year’s Early Decision pool will fill 47% of the incoming first-year class.

As reports the Williams College Office of Communications, “The admitted students represent 209 secondary schools around the world. Thirty-four states are represented, with the largest numbers coming from New York (52), Massachusetts (45), California (28), Connecticut (13), Maryland (11), Florida (9), New Jersey (9), and Virginia (7). Six students come from each of the states of Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. The 12 international students admitted represent 10 countries: Bangladesh, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. Of the 257 admitted students, 140 identify as men, 94 as women. One identifies as agender and 22 students did not respond to an optional question about gender identity (but did answer a required binary question that appears on the application).”

So it was a banner year indeed for Williams College, a school that regularly tops the “US News & World Report” ranking for “National Liberal Arts Colleges.” Congratulations to the 257 students who earned admission in the Early Decision round to Williams College!

Binding Early Decision Commitment

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Applying Early Decision

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” about students who violate binding Early Decision policies.

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” by Alexandra Pannoni entitled “What Happens to Students Who Back Out of Early Decision Offers” that we figured we’d share with our readers. It should first be noted that we have never, in over a quarter of a century of being in business, had a student back out of an Early Decision offer. When a student applies Early Decision, that student makes a binding commitment to attend that institution — with an emphasis on the word ‘binding.’ That’s the whole point of applying Early. It’s why a student’s odds of getting in are stronger in the Early round. Students show their commitment to a school and that school shows its commitment back. It’s why at so many highly selective colleges, such a major chunk of the incoming first-year class is already filled with Early candidates.

But what happens when that rare student chooses to violate the Early Decision policy, to break their word, and apply to other institutions after being admitted to a school through Early Decision? The words ‘at their own peril’ come to mind. Colleges share lists. Why would a college knowingly admit a student who applied to another college under a binding Early Decision program? Can it happen? Can schools not cross-reference? Yes. But they often do. And school counselors — who value their longstanding relationships with colleges — will quite often reveal breaches of Early Decision commitments. So to those rare students who cross their fingers and hope they’ll get away with it, we have two words for you: you’re nuts. Because you’re risking getting blacklisted.

As Pannoni writes, “The early decision agreement is not legally binding and the school wouldn’t go after the student for tuition, but there could be other consequences. If, for instance, they found out a student somehow had applied to two different places early decision, or even another early action and the student had broken the early decision agreement, [Williams College Director of Admission Richard] Nesbitt says they’d call the other schools and the student would risk losing both acceptances. It may not be that difficult for schools to determine if students are playing the system. A student’s high school guidance counselor may be aware of what the student has done and contact the school, says Nesbitt.” We could not agree more with Richard.


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