Applying Early Decision to college is often a great idea. Students who apply through Early Decision (or Early Action depending on the university) stand better odds than do students who apply through Regular Decision. It’s that simple. If you want further evidence, check out our Ivy League Statistics and see the percentage of applicants who were admitted Early. Then, compare it to the percentage of applicants who were admitted via Regular Decision. Notice a trend?
But in our experience, many students waste their Early cards. That’s right — they waste them. How so? They waste them by applying to a school through Early Decision that they don’t have a shot of getting into. In fact, the vast majority of college applicants do just this. Often after we review our students’ transcripts, SAT / ACT scores, and extracurricular activities, we look into our crystal ball and tell these students (and their parents) that they are not going to be accepted at the college to which they intend to apply Early to. A student with a 480 on his Math SAT (ok, we went a bit extreme…quite a bit extreme!) isn’t going to get into Yale. So to apply Early Decision to Yale in this student’s case would be absurd and a waste of his Early Decision card. He’s not going to get in.
It’s totally okay to apply to a reach school with your Early Decision or Early Action card. Don’t waste your Early card on a school that you think you’ll definitely get into — unless you are certain you want to go to that school. We just want to stress that the reach shouldn’t be an enormous reach because then it’s a complete waste of the ace in your back pocket. Don’t waste your ace. Apply to a realistic reach with the strongest application possible. And, yes, we can be of great help as you seek to submit the strongest application possible to your Early school.