The Ivy Coach Daily

October 21, 2022

Correcting an Early Admission Misconception

A piece up on CNBC focuses on the Early Action / Early Decision round of admissions.

One of the core objectives of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog has long been to debunk misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process — misconceptions perpetuated by the press, admissions officers, high school counselors, private college counselors, and, heck, even moms and dads in line at the local grocery store. Today, we wish to debunk one such misconception concerning Early Decision vs. Early Action.

In an article up on CNBC by Jess Dickler entitled “Should you apply early to college? Here’s what the experts say about this ‘strategic game’,” a private college counselor states, “A lot of people view early action or early decision as interchangeable…early action, in certain cases, makes no difference in admission.” The counselor then states that Early decision can “help leverage someone’s admissions chances.”

With all due respect to the private college counselor who voiced this opinion, in our book, it’s incorrect advice that does not reflect the reality of elite college admissions. And why? Certain schools have Early Action policies, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. Certain school have Early Decision policies, like Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, UPenn, Cornell, Duke, and Northwestern. A couple of schools have both Early Action and Early Decision policies, like UChicago. Yet applying Early — whether it’s through a school’s EA or ED policy — always makes a difference.

Think about it this way. When a student applies to Yale Early Action as opposed to Regular Decision, admissions officers are more insecure. Will they get a lot of applicants in the Regular Decision round? Will they get strong applicants? And when admissions officers are more insecure, they’re more lenient. You want to apply when admissions officers are more lenient, not less. By the time Regular Decision rolls around, they know the applicant pool they’ve secured and, as such, they’re more secure and less lenient about that B+ in AP Chemistry or that 1440 SAT.

In short, if a student’s dream is Yale, their best shot of getting in is by applying Early Action to Yale rather than Regular Decision. While an Early Action commitment is not binding, Yale no longer offers a binding Early Decision policy (they used to!). But the student’s chances of getting into Yale are still stronger by applying Early Action as compared to Regular Decision because Yale admissions officers, like all admissions officers, are more insecure and more lenient in the Early round of admissions.

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