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.

Early Application Numbers

Early App Numbers, Early Decision Numbers, Early Action Numbers

Each and every year seems to be “the best class ever” at every highly selective college…not only Brown.

Ivy Coach is featured extensively on the pages of “The Brown Daily Herald” today, the newspaper of Brown University. In a piece by Alex Skidmore entitled “Jump in early admission lowers total acceptance rate,” the slug-line (is that what you call it?) reads: “Ivy Coach expert says higher early admission rate calculated effort to boost University rankings.” Well but of course! Regular readers of our college admissions blog know that highly selective colleges (and Brown is surely not the only culprit here — they’re all guilty) want as many students to apply as possible since, invariably, the more students who apply, the lower the acceptance rate will be. One does not need to take Differential Equations to understand this math. It’s simple arithmetic. And long division, we suppose.

It’s the best class ever! It’s not like we’ve never seen that before. JK!

As we’re quoted in the piece, “Brian Taylor, director of Ivy Coach, offered a different perspective. The number of applications that the University has received in total has risen steadily over the years, but the University is not receiving more qualified applicants, he said. ‘Colleges are getting better and better at getting unqualified students to apply,’ Taylor said. This allows the University to tout ‘the most competitive class ever,’ he added. This process is meant to boost a school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking, Taylor said. ‘There is no bigger impact (on admission) than the annual rankings,’ he added. In some parts of the world, the U.S. News and World Report rankings system is ‘the Bible’ of college admission and a deciding factor for many students applying, he said.”

The piece goes on, “When universities admit more students through a binding early decision process, they have to admit fewer students during regular decision, thereby lowering their overall acceptance rate, Taylor said. Universities are guaranteed 100 percent matriculation from early decision applicants because of their binding commitment to attend the school.” And it goes on further, “Brown and its peer schools then have to admit more students than they expect will eventually attend, increasing their acceptance rate and lowering their selectivity score for the rankings. Though this phenomenon occurs at all highly selective universities, Penn has used this tactic most blatantly, Taylor said.”

We always do like to offer that “different” perspective. Whatever. We’ll own it. Agree with us? Disagree? We’re curious to hear your thoughts so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to write back.

Early Decision Pool Diversity

Early Decision Pool, Diversity in Early Decision, Early Decision at UPenn

Ivy Coach was referenced in a piece in “The Daily Pennsylvanian” recently on the diversity of the Early Decision pool.

Ivy Coach was featured a few days back on the pages of the University of Pennsylvania’s newspaper, “The Daily Pennsylvanian.” The piece, written by Sophia Leporte, is entitled “Early Decision pool becoming more diverse” and, naturally, it focuses on how the group of students who applied Early to UPenn is more diverse than ever before. Regular readers of our college admissions blog know that we encourage all of our students to apply Early Decision or Early Action. In fact, if a student should come to us before the Early round and not wish to apply Early, we won’t work with this student. And why? Because that student isn’t willing to play his or her cards right to get in. An Early Decision or Early Action card is one of the few cards that a college applicant to a school like the University of Pennsylvania has in the back pocket. To not use it is, in a word, nuts.

One reason some folks choose not to apply Early Decision or Early Action is because they don’t think they’ll get the best financial aid offer if they only apply to, say, one school. Here’s our answer, as quoted in “The Daily Pennsylvanian”: “Brian Taylor, the director of college counseling practice Ivy Coach, acknowledges that more underprivileged students may not be applying early because of this but notes that it is a misconception, since many universities, including Penn, have now made financial aid calculators easily accessible on their websites. ‘Yes, fewer underprivileged applicants apply in the early round,’ Taylor said. ‘And often for the wrong reasons — because they want to compare higher financial aid packages when, in fact, you can find that information out without even applying to colleges.'” And while this remains an issue not just at UPenn but at every highly selective college in America, as the piece points out, “Taylor agrees that the diversity of Penn’s early decision round is getting better. ‘It’s still somewhat of an issue, but it is not as drastic as some people may think,’ Taylor said.”

So many students choose not to apply Early Decision and so many of them make this decision for the wrong reason.

Have a question about applying Early Decision or Early Action? Think that the Early Decision or Early Action pool at various highly selective colleges is less diverse than the Regular Decision pools? Don’t like this? We’re curious to hear from our readers so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to write back.


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