Early Decision Commitments

We at Ivy Coach believe in the merits of a free market economy in America. We thus stand behind NACAC’s changes in response to a DOJ probe. But these changes will not impact our nation’s elite colleges to the extent many seem to think.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, an organization which we belong to, recently announced some changes that will alter the way some universities choose to do business. The changes by NACAC come in response to a Department of Justice probe, one we’ve reported on extensively, in which the organization was essentially under scrutiny for restraining trade, notably with respect to Early Decision policies and restrictions surrounding transfer students. So what are the changes and how will these changes impact college applicants to our nation’s elite universities?

Colleges Will Be Able to Woo Committed ED Students and More

As Erica L. Green reports for The New York Times in a piece entitled “Colleges Agree to Allow Increased Competition for Applicants,” “The National Association for College Admission Counseling said it would allow its member college and university counselors to recruit students even after they have committed to another school and would permit members to encourage students to transfer after they have already enrolled. Colleges and universities have been heavily criticized for encouraging potential students to enter into agreements, particularly for early admissions, with the understanding that an accepted applicant could not then turn to another school.”

“That understanding, which was not legally binding but was widely followed, prevented universities from competing for applicants by offering more enticing financial aid packages. Now, colleges will be free to offer perks, like special scholarships or priority in course selection, to early-decision applicants, students who are less likely to need tuition assistance and use the process to secure a spot at their first-choice schools…Institutions will also be able to continue recruiting students beyond a widely applied May 1 deadline.”

What These Changes Mean for College Applicants

We can hear your wheels turning. We know you’re wondering, “So, Ivy Coach, does this mean that I can apply Early Decision to, say, Brown and then apply in the Regular Decision round — after I earn admission to Brown — to lots of schools since my Early commitment is not legally enforceable? I won’t be risking my Brown admission?” No! We’re putting down a spike strip to stop those wheels from turning. If you apply under a school’s binding Early Decision policy and earn admission, you do not pass Go, you do not collect $200, you go straight to Brown. You do not apply to any other schools thereafter.

Irrespective of NACAC’s changes, you’d be a fool to jeopardize your Brown admission. Additionally, you’re not going to be coveted by Regular Decision schools — they’ve got Brown’s back. While these schools might be competitors, if they let you treat Brown that way, then a student could do the same to them. So, yes, you’ll be blacklisted. And this is irrespective of the newly announced changes by NACAC. While America’s highly selective colleges are not excluded from the member institutions these changes impact, for all intents and purposes, you should think of these changes as more applicable to less selective colleges, colleges that have difficulty meeting enrollment numbers. So if you apply Early Decision to an Ivy League or other highly selective college and get in, that’s where you go. End of story.

Have a question about the agreement reached between NACAC and the United States Department of Justice? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!


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