Using Early Decision Card Wisely

Early Decision, Apply Early Decision, Early Decision Advantage

We have a crystal ball at Ivy Coach. It’s famous!

Many folks often say to us, “Why not see if my son can get into Columbia in the Early Decision round? What’s the harm? We don’t want to wonder for the rest of our lives if he could have gotten in.” It’s indeed a refrain we hear annually at this time, although it’s not always Columbia as the first choice school of course. Sometimes it’s Harvard in the Early Action round or Brown Early Decision. And the parent does raise a valid point about having to wonder for the rest of their lives if the son could have ever gotten in. But we have a remedy.

At Ivy Coach, we have a crystal ball. It’s a crystal ball that’s rather ubiquitous. It’s been referenced on the pages of “The Dartmouth,” America’s oldest college newspaper. Our crystal ball is very accurate. It can tell a student and his or her parent if a student has a reasonable shot of getting into a school like Columbia in the Early Decision round. At Ivy Coach, we believe in encouraging students to apply to reach schools in the Early round. Why not? You want to take some risk. But we don’t believe in impossible dreams and if a student has no shot of getting into Columbia in the Early Decision round, we’ll tell them, courtesy of our crystal ball. This way, they’ll never have to wonder.

But we’d like to point out to our readers that there is one other flaw in this line of questioning. When the parent asks, “What’s the harm,” there actually is a harm. Because a student only has one Early Decision card. They can only commit to one school. Even in Single Choice Early Action at a school like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford, the student can’t apply to other private schools Early. So what’s the harm? The harm is the student can’t use the Early card more wisely at a reach school, but not an impossible reach. The odds of getting in during the Early round are much stronger than in the Regular round so not to use the Early card wisely is to waste it. And who wants to wonder for the rest of their lives if they wasted their Early card. You see what we did there?

The Advantage of Early Applications

Early Decision Advantage, Early Action Advantage, Early Application Advantage

There is a great quote from a former Northwestern University admissions officer on the pages of “The Washington Post.”

We know, we know. Yet another post on the advantage of Early applications. Whatever. Deal with it. We regularly make a point of expressing the importance of a student using his or her Early Decision or Early Action card and using it wisely. As our compiled Ivy League Statistics for the Class of 2020 make clear, admission rates are significantly stronger in the Early round as compared to the Regular round. Look no further than the University of Pennsylvania as a case example, though the University of Pennsylvania is surely not alone. Each and every single Ivy League college favors its Early applicants to its Regular applicants. And when folks chime in through the media to echo this point, we’ll always bring what they say to the attention of our readers, just in case they’re not listening to us.

So here’s a quote on the advantages of applying Early from a former Northwestern University admissions officer, Jaime Garcia, as it appeared in “The Washington Post”: “If you are 100 percent sure where you want to go, seek early admission. Generally, college admissions officers know that those who apply for early decision are  those who have a higher satisfaction rate when they are on campus. Because early decision is a great indicator for this satisfaction, schools frequently have goals and benchmarks for admitting a particular percentage of students through early decision. They won’t tell you this, but early-admission acceptance rates are often higher than regular acceptance rates. It is also less competitive because the applicant pool is smaller than regular decision.”

As Jaime Garcia expresses, Early applicants, in general, end up being more satisfied once they attend the Early school that offered them admission compared to their Regular Decision peer applicants. Colleges don’t want students to transfer. That’s bad for business. And they want students to be happy. That’s good for business. So do these colleges favor Early applicants? You bet they do!

Ivy Coach salutes Jaime Garcia for telling it like it is, for speaking the truth, and for not being shy to articulate these extremely valid points on the pages of the newspaper Woodward and Bernstein helped make one of the most respected journalistic sources in the world.

So, we ask our readers, is there an advantage to Early applications? Post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.

Too Big of an Early Action Reach

Early Action Reach, Early Decision Reach, Reach School in Early Round

For many students, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford is too big of an Early Action reach.

Some students choose to apply to an Early Action (or Early Decision) school that is a big reach. And they figure, “Why not? Might as well.” Often times, these students (and their parents) don’t want to wonder for the rest of their lives if they could have earned admission to a Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford. They want to give it their very best shot and apply SCEA (Single Choice Early Action, the policy at each of these four institutions). But such a strategy is most unwise.

A student only has one Early card (if applying to an Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action school). To not use it wisely is to waste one of the very best cards a student has in his or her back pocket in the highly selective college admissions process. You want to use that Early Decision or Early Action card oh so wisely. To apply to a reach school that is but an impossible dream is to basically throw away your Early card.

Do apply to a reach school in the Early round. But don’t apply to an impossible reach. To do so would be to waste your Early card.

We have a famous crystal ball at Ivy Coach. They write about it on the pages of “The Dartmouth,” the newspaper of Dartmouth College. We can, quite accurately, predict if a student has a reasonable shot of earning admission to an Early Action / Early Decision dream school. And if we believe the school to be an impossible dream, our crystal ball will relay as much to our student. This way, a student doesn’t have to wonder for the rest of her life if she could have gotten into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford because our crystal ball could give her this answer.

And if our crystal ball says it’s an impossible dream, then that student can use her Early card more wisely by applying to a school that is indeed a reach (why apply Early to a safe bet?) but not an impossible reach. Because while our college hockey players did win gold in the 1980 Olympic Games, the impossible dream, as sportscaster Al Michaels called the Miracle on Ice, usually doesn’t come true.

While you’re here, read how only crazy students don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action. And, yes, we firmly stand behind this.

Commitment of Early Decision

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Binding Early Decision

Early Decision is a binding commitment, one so many students are scared to make. Use that to your advantage as an applicant (photo credit: Gavin Huang).

Afraid to make an Early Decision commitment? Lots of students choose not to apply Early Decision to schools that have Early Decision policies. And why? In our experience, it’s typically because they’re not ready or willing to make a binding commitment to a university. Maybe they need more time. Maybe they’re indecisive. Maybe they wake up loving one school one day and another school the next. It may seem like we’re describing a 20-something New Yorker navigating relationships through Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and the like but really we’re describing high school seniors! They’re often equally as noncommittal.

But this is a mistake. At the end of the day, college applicants choose one school to commit to. They only go to one school, not ten. So our argument at Ivy Coach is…why not commit to a school in the Early round, when the odds are so much more in an applicant’s favor? If they’re going to have to commit to one school anyway, why not do it a few months earlier so they can optimize their chances of getting into the best school possible. After all, the odds of getting in during the Early Decision / Early Action round are so much stronger than the Regular Decision round. If you’re not familiar with these statistics, peruse our compiled Ivy League Statistics. The difference is surely not subtle.

We also hear about a lot of folks who choose to apply Early to a school that offers Early Action as opposed to Early Decision because they’re not willing to make this commitment and Early Action isn’t binding. But that is rather silly. The odds of getting in Early to a school that has an Early Decision policy are even stronger than to schools that have Early Action policies. If you show your unwavering, singular love for a university, they’ll want to show that love back to you. So don’t be a chicken — apply Early.

Keep Cards Close to Vest in Admissions

Cards in College Admissions, Early Decision Card, Early Action Card

Don’t show your hand to your classmates. Those classmates are your competitors, whether or not you realize it!

Keep them cards close to the vest in college admissions. Students sometimes say to us something like, “The student who is #1 in our class, with perfect grades and near perfect SATs and Subject Tests — she’s applying to Yale Early Decision. So should I not apply to Yale because she’s applying to Yale?” Our first response is typically: “That’s great that you know where this student will be applying Early. Or at least you think you know where she’s applying Early. Does that mean that she or others in your class know where you’ll be applying Early Decision or Early Action?” The answer usually is a simple, “No.” And then three seconds pass. And then we hear something like, “Well, my friend Abby knows. And Chris too. But that’s it. And they definitely won’t tell anyone.” We stay silent. “I don’t think they’ll tell anyone.” More silence. “Oh G-d, maybe they will tell people. Everyone is going to know my Early school. Ahhhhh!”

Just as you wouldn’t show a fellow card player your Poker hand mid-game, don’t tell your classmates where you’re applying Early. Keep them cards close to the vest, as they say.

Ok, it isn’t usually that dramatic but you get the idea. Don’t tell students and parents where you’ll be applying Early. There is no advantage to doing so and there is a disadvantage because then other students, students who are your competitors (because that is what they are) know your strategy. That’s like going into an 800 meter freestyle and telling everyone you’re swimming against that you’re going out at full speed. Katie Ledecky would never do such a thing. Because then her competitors would know her race strategy. They’d be expecting this surge of speed at the beginning of the race. And, yes, in the specific case of Katie Ledecky, there’s a surge of speed throughout the entire race, no matter the distance.

Keep your cards close to your vest. Sure, learn where your classmates are applying Early. But also realize they may not be telling you the truth, no matter how good of a friend you think this person is right now. No need to lay out your strategy to the very people you’re going up against. That’s just silly. Don’t be silly. Be strategic. Keep them cards close. Very close.

UChicago Early Decision

University of Chicago Early Action, Early Decision at UChicago, UChicago Early Applications

The University of Chicago has added two rounds of Early Decision in addition to Early Action.

For the Class of 2021, not only is the University of Chicago accepting the Common Application, the Universal Application, and the Coalition Application, the school has also changed the way students can apply. In the past, students only had the option of applying Early Action (or Regular Decision), and the University of Chicago was always a great choice in the Early round if a student was applying to other Early Action schools — including those that subscribed to Restrictive Early Action policies. Students even applied to the University of Chicago Early Action while applying to another college Early Decision. That was always a great strategy, one we encouraged. Why not have backups in the Early round? It’s only logical. A student just couldn’t apply to the University of Chicago if they were applying to colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford because these four institutions are Single Choice Early Action schools.

Early applicants to the University of Chicago, beginning with the Class of 2021, will now have more options.

For the Class of 2021, the University of Chicago has kept its Early Action option intact, but the university has added not only Early Decision I but also Early Decision II. With these added options in the Early round, we may have to walk back a bit what we said just yesterday on the pages of our college admissions blog. Apparently the University of Chicago does care very much about the number of undergraduate applications they receive — that’s why they’re adding more options for Early applicants. And yet the school still wants its applicants to love the University of Chicago and to show their interest in the school…hence their very unique essay prompts (prompts that are arguably more unique than any other university in America).

What do you think of the University of Chicago’s three Early options — Early Action, Early Decision I, and Early Decision II? We’re curious to hear from our readers so do post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to write back.

Crazy Students Don’t Apply Early Decision

Apply Early Decision, Applying Early Decision, Applying Early Action

Does the University of Pennsylvania value its Early Decision applicants? You bet they do (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

We firmly believe that only crazy students don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action. The odds of getting in through the Early Decision or Early Action round (depending on the college’s policy) are so much stronger than are the odds of getting in during the Regular Decision round. Just look at the statistics at the University of Pennsylvania if you’re unaware of the drastic difference in a student’s chances of admission in the Early round as compared to the Regular round. Does the University of Pennsylvania value its Early Decision applicants? You bet they do. They love students who love them.

And the University of Pennsylvania is not alone. All colleges want to be loved. They’re insecure like that. Applying Early gives them a sense of security. Because when you apply Early Decision, you make a binding commitment to that school that you will attend. And that of course helps the school’s yield since 100% of students (with a couple of rare exceptions) who are admitted Early Decision will matriculate. It’s important to know that yield indirectly impacts a school’s “US News & World Report” ranking, which is fundamentally important to the admissions offices at every single highly selective college (no matter what it is they tell you about rankings). In Regular Decision, these schools have to sway students to choose them, to love them over other schools. If a school has an Early Decision policy, they don’t have to sway any admitted students about anything. They have that sense of security in that way.

Too non-commital to commit to a school in the Early round? Get over it and get over it fast.

And for those schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford that have Single Choice Early Action policies, most students who are admitted in the Early round will end up attending, even though it isn’t a binding commitment. Most folks don’t turn down Harvard. So, yes, a student has better odds of getting into these four universities if he or she applies Early too.

To not apply Early Decision or Early Action…it’s nuts. You have to make a commitment to one school in the end anyway. Why not do it in the Early round when the odds are ever more in your favor, to paraphrase from “The Hunger Games”?

The Wealthy and Early Decision

Early Decision Policies, Wealth and Early Decision, Early Action and Wealth

There are some folks who argue that Early Decision and Early Action policies cater to the wealthy. We don’t agree.

There are some folks who argue that Early Decision and Early Action policies at highly selective colleges cater to the wealthy, to the disadvantage of middle and lower income college applicants. But these folks — as we’ve been saying for years — are wrong to assert such. Do wealthier applicants tend to apply in the Early Decision / Early Action round as compared to the Regular Decision round? You bet. But not for the right reasons.

As the University of Pennsylvania’s always candid Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said in reference to the Early Decision round at Penn in a piece in “The Washington Post,” “‘This pool is becoming broader and deeper and more diverse than it’s ever been. It’s time to start telling that story,’ Furda said. ‘I don’t want lower-income families to be told, ‘Don’t apply early decision because you’re going to need to compare financial-aid packages.” These days, nearly as many early-decision freshmen receive need-based grants from Penn as their peers admitted in the regular cycle, he said.” We echo the sentiments expressed by Eric Furda.

The fact is that most applicants choose not to apply Early Decision because they’re not ready to make a commitment. Nick Anderson, in his piece in “The Washington Post” referred to those who are willing to make this commitment as “the Pledgers” whereas those who choose to apply Regular Decision instead are “the Shoppers.” We don’t disagree with these labels but we do take issue with Anderson referring to the Pledgers as “a privileged subset.” Students need to commit to one college in the end anyway. Why should the students who have the chutzpah to commit to a school Early — when the odds are so much more in their favor (just look at UPenn’s admissions statistics over the years) — be disparaged? Why should the students who don’t wish to apply to 20 schools and only wish to apply to one school and be done with it be labeled “a privileged subset”? We’ve got a more appropriate label for “the Pledgers” — savvy!

Early Decision 2 Round

ED2 Round, Early Decision, Early Decision Round Two

Emory University is one institution with an Early Decision 2 round.

Most highly selective colleges have only one round of Early Decision. But at some schools — both highly selective, selective, and not particularly selective — there are two distinct rounds of Early Decision. So we figured we’d share with the readers of our college admissions blog the colleges that offer two rounds of Early Decision. Well, actually that list is a bit long for our liking so we’ll cherry pick the highly selective or selective ones. Apologies to any we chose not to cherry pick.

American University, Bates Colleges, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University, Carleton College, Claremont McKenna College, Colby College, Colorado College, Connecticut College, Davidson College, Emory University, George Washington University, Grinnell College, Hamilton College, Harvey Mudd College, Lehigh University, Middlebury College, New York University, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Pomona College, University of Richmond, Sarah Lawrence College, Smith College, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University.

So many of the small liberal arts schools in New England offer two rounds of Early Decision. We’d sure call it a trend. Wouldn’t you? Have a question about Early Decision 2? If so, post your question below and we’ll be sure to write back.

Deferred Harvard Applicant

A student who was deferred in the Early Action round at Harvard this year (he is not an Ivy Coach client) reached out to us letting us know that he reads our blog and finds it a valuable resource for students navigating the highly selective college admissions process. He asked if we wouldn’t mind publishing a video he made for submission to Harvard, a video he hopes will improve his odds of earning admission in the Regular Decision round to the university. It’s a parody of the infamous “Miss Universe Pageant” hosted by Steve Harvey.

We should preface sharing this video with this: We do not recommend that deferred students to Harvard — or any other highly selective university — submit videos to the admissions office. While every now and then a video will work (and go viral), in most cases they fall flat. This video, one intended to be humorous, falls completely flat for us. It doesn’t feel fresh. It didn’t make us giggle. It’s not emblematic of the kind of humor that, say, “The Harvard Lampoon” is known for (Conan O’Brien was a past president of “The Harvard Lampoon.”

Deferred students should submit a very powerful and compelling Letter of Enthusiasm (a term we at Ivy Coach coined years ago) to the university that deferred them. It gives them the best possible shot of earning admission. Do students who are deferred have a good shot of getting in during the Regular Decision round? No. At most highly selective colleges, they’ve got a 10% shot of getting in. An amazing Letter of Enthusiasm significantly improves these odds (an ordinary Letter of Enthusiasm can hurt more than help!). And as for this video, we’re not sure it improved the candidate’s odds at all unfortunately. In fact, we think it will hurt more than help (though we hope we’re wrong and we are rooting for this student (who obviously doesn’t read our blog too closely because we’d never suggest he submit a video like this!).

Deferred at Harvard? Fill out our free consult form as, if you haven’t done anything just yet, we can still help! If you’ve already submitted videos like these, we wish you all the best but, regrettably, there isn’t much we can do.


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