Early Decision is Binding

Early Decision is binding. And binding means binding (photo credit: Justin Ennis).

A parent on a free consultation — to be clear, a parent who was not our client but rather a prospective client — recently told us that her daughter was accepted to a college under its binding Early Decision policy. But her child has since had misgivings about the school and wants out of her binding Early Decision commitment. Instead, she wishes to take a gap year (maybe even two gap years!) before reapplying to other colleges. Our regular readers likely imagine how we responded to this parents and her predicament. Can you guess?

Binding Means Binding in College Admissions

Our response went something like this: “Your daughter signed on the dotted line to the school at which she made a binding commitment. Unless your financial situation has changed significantly since your daughter applied just a couple of short months ago, there is no ‘out’ on her Early Decision commitment. That’s the express purpose of Early Decision — to secure binding commitments from students, commitments even competing colleges hold dear. These colleges, they’re thinking: if you can do that to them, then you can do that to us. Your daughter should not try to disavow her commitment to the school at which she was admitted Early. She should go to the school and try to love her experience. And if she doesn’t love it, well, then she can always transfer. But cross that bridge then and forget about this nonsense now. You don’t need our help. Your daughter should go directly to the school that admitted her ED without passing Go. And congratulations on her Early Decision admission!”

We Don’t Tell Always Parents What They Want to Hear, We Tell Them What They Need to Hear

The mother subsequently wrote us that she had decided to work with another college counseling company — hint, hint: one that rhymes with IvyPies! — since that college counseling company, she claims, said her daughter didn’t have to go to the school she committed to in the Early Decision round, that she could take two years off, and then re-apply to other colleges. Of course, we don’t know that the company that rhymes with IvyPies actually told this parent this nonsense or if this parent was just telling stories but there is a lesson to be learned from this mother’s experience nonetheless. That lesson goes like this: if you want to hear an answer badly enough, you can certainly find someone to convey that answer to you — but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Do you really think colleges will covet a student who has been out of a high school curriculum for two years after reneging on their Early Decision commitment? Of course not! It would set a terrible example.

And if the company that rhymes with IvyPies really did tell this parent that (it very well could have been a bubba meintze told by the mother), then maybe they were just telling her what she wanted to hear. Well, we at Ivy Coach don’t always tell parents what they want to hear — even if it means they don’t become our clients. We tell parents what they need to hear. We tell it like it is — we’re New Yorkers. Even if it means we’re turning away potential clients. We can certainly live with that.


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