So many high school seniors across America and around the world choose not to apply to a school through an Early Decision policy because they’re not ready to make a binding commitment to attend an institution. They need time. They want to weigh their options. An apple might fall from a tree, hit them over the head, and change their mind about where they want to go to college. Who knows why so many are commitment-phobic but, frankly, we find it rather foolish. In the end, students need to commit to one college. They can’t attend four colleges or even two. They can only go to one. So why not commit by November 1st to enjoy increased odds of admission, to help optimize your case for admission to a reach school?
In an op-ed for The Daily Princetonian entitled “Make the decision to get rid of Early Decision,” Lucia Wetherill writes, “ED forces students to identify and commit to a ‘dream school’ far too early. In ‘Love and College Admission,’ college counselor Brennan Barnard argues that falling in love with and making a binding commitment to a school so early is a ‘manufactured approach [that] rarely ends well and can result in frustration and disillusion.’ In applying ED, students run the risk of committing to a school based on surface-level attraction rather than long-term interest and research. Indeed, ED robs students of months of research, growth, and exploration during the college application process — one of the most important periods in a student’s life. It supports the idea that a student will have a singular ‘dream school’ to which they will be perfectly suited when in reality, there are countless colleges that any student may love.”
And what do we think of Ms. Wetherill’s argument, one that relies, in our opinion, on the words of one of the biggest perpetuators of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad advice in elite college admissions? We think it’s ridiculous. It’s “manufactured” to commit to a school in November of a student’s senior year but not in May? Those six months allow students to do research on colleges that they couldn’t do during the six months prior to November 1st? Committing to a school Early Decision “rarely ends well” for students? Tell that to the hundreds of elated students we’ve worked with over the last nearly 30 years as they’ve earned admission to the likes of Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, Cornell, Duke, and other elite institutions through Early Decision policies. The fact is, Brennan Barnard’s argument is, we believe, utter nonsense. This is the same college counselor who lamented America’s obsession with elite colleges. Of course, Mr. Barnard didn’t attend one of America’s most elite universities — yet we suspect, based on evidence we’ve presented in the past, that — perhaps unsurprisingly — he himself is obsessed with these schools. So do be aware where these arguments against Early Decision are sourced.
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