On Nixing Early Decision

A student penned an editorial in support of the discontinuation of Early Decision at Columbia and Barnard in The Columbia Daily Spectator.

We’ve seen the argument so many times before. Early programs favor the privileged — the recruited athletes, the legacies, the development cases, the young people whose names begin with an initial and are followed by a Roman numeral. And because they favor the privilege, they should be abolished at once. Without exception, such an argument always cites how Early Decision programs in particular don’t allow students to compare financial aid packages, thereby discouraging them from making a binding commitment to a school by November 1st of senior year.

Take for example a recent student-published editorial in The Columbia Daily Spectator arguing against the merits of Early programs. In a piece by Dahlia Soussan entitled “Ahead of the early decision deadline, a first-year’s plea to reconsider the program,” she writes, “Early decision’s binding nature requires students to forgo comparing aid packages between institutions.” That, of course, is utter nonsense. As we’ve written on many an occasion on the pages of this college admissions blog, college applicants who need financial aid can apply Early and figure out the approximate amount each school will offer them before they even apply. That’s right. It’s truly that simple. Net price calculators are federally mandated and they appear on each and every college’s admissions website. If a school were to have a faulty net price calculator, you could say that our United States Department of Justice would take action. And if the aid of the applicant is not met by the school, then the Early Decision binding agreement is null and void in any case.

You see, each school has its own net price calculator. It’s not a one stop shop like the Common Application. Rather, each and every school that receives federal funding is required to maintain their own calculator. For example, some schools consider a family’s home equity/mortgage in their net price calculation, while others do not. Don’t believe us? Here’s Yale’s net price calculator. Here’s Stanford’s net price calculator. And if your retort, “Yeah, well, that’s all well and good but colleges can sometimes change financial aid offers,” that is absolutely true in a small percentage of cases — but it’s typically only because of a calculation error due to a family submitting partial or outdated financial information.

So enough with the tired argument that Early Decision programs need to be axed because students can’t compare financial aid offers. If you want to make an argument against Early programs, that’s fine by us. But let’s lead with the facts rather than fiction.

 
 

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