Certainty and Applying Early Decision

Early Decision Admission, Early Action Admission, Applying Early Decision

In our experience, certainty in the mind of a teenager is a bit overrated.

There’s a piece in “Forbes” by Troy Onink entitled “College Admissions: Answers From Prep School Pros” that we figured we’d discuss on the pages of our college admissions blog. A college counselor at a preparatory school is asked about when students should or should not apply Early Decision or Early Action. Here’s the first sentence of her answer: “Early Decision should be reserved for students who are 100% certain they have discovered a school they want to attend.” We emphatically disagree.

We know, you’re probably thinking…how could you possibly disagree with this seemingly innocuous statement, right? When a student applies Early Decision to a college, that applicant makes a binding commitment to attend that institution. So he or she should of course know 100% that it’s his or her first choice college. It seems reasonable enough. But few things in life are 100%. In the real world that we live in, there is some grey area. Few students absolutely, 100% love one school above all others. And even if they do, college applicants are teenagers. Their minds change by the minute. Last Tuesday, Duke may have been the first choice. This Tuesday, it might be Princeton.

The advantages of applying through an Early Decision or Early Action program should not be understated. If you’re not aware of the statistical advantage of applying Early, check out our compiled Ivy League Statistics. Check out the Early Decision or Early Action statistics for a particular school and then check out that same school’s Regular Decision statistics. You’ll note it’s pears and bananas. That’s our way of saying apples and oranges. The fact is that few students are 100% about anything (and being 75% can indeed be ok!). At the end of the day, students will have to commit to one school. So these students might as well make this commitment before the Early Decision / Early Action deadline when the odds are ever in their favor, to paraphrase from “The Hunger Games” and all.

Agree? Disagree? We’re curious to hear from our readers.


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  • Georgia says:

    How important is self-reporting AP scores on Common App? I just applied ED to Wharton (undergrad), but did not self report my AP scores, which I received all 5s on. Would this have any bearing on admissions? Should I email the colleges to update them?

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Hi Georgia – We offer this kind of information during paid one-hour evaluations. While we offer quite a bit of information through our blog, we make no apologies for not answering specific questions like this. We are not Ask Abby. We’re a business. Hope you understand.

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