An Early Decision Myth

Early Decision, Myth of Early Decision, Early Decision Myths

Students who don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action waste a valuable card in their back pocket (photo credit: Jazz-Face).

One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process. These misconceptions are put out there in the press, by high school counselors (not all high school counselors are experts in college admissions…in fact, most aren’t), by the neighbor’s third cousin once removed, and by just about everyone in between. But it’s the high school counselors that often frustrate us the most. What’s the expression? A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to many high school counselors giving advice on highly selective college admissions.

The Founder on Ivy Coach was a high school counselor on Long Island for many years and she was always so frustrated that so many of the counselors advising students were simply giving incorrect advice. But allow us to show, not tell — as we tell our students in their college admissions essays. Half Hollow Hills is a prestigious school district on Long Island. Online, they’ve published advice on the pros and cons of applying Early Decision or Early Action. In it, they write, “Some colleges will say that students have a better chance of admission if they apply early using early decision, but it really depends upon the applicant pool and how selective the college is overall. A student shouldn’t count on early decision to increase his chances of admission greatly, but if he is sure that this college is the one, it won’t hurt his chances if he lets them know that he cares enough to make this early commitment.”

Too many high school college counseling offices perpetuate falsehoods about highly selective college admissions — like completely understating the advantage of applying through Early Decision and Early Action policies.

This is false. Applying Early always helps a student’s case for admission. Just look at the clear and unequivocal data on the statistical advantage of applying through an Early policy as compared to through a Regular Decision policy. It doesn’t depend upon the applicant pool. And not only will it not “hurt” one’s chances to apply Early — it’ll vastly help one’s chances! How on earth could it hurt a student’s chances of getting in to make a binding commitment to a school, to show that school they’re loved above all other schools? Come on, Half Hollow Hills. Get it together and stop perpetuating college admissions myths. It only makes the admissions process more confusing and more stressful for students and parents alike.

What college admissions myths is your high school’s college counseling office perpetuating? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.


You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


Tags: , , , ,


  • DT says:

    Wrong. Admissions chances are NOT improved by applying early — you need to do the math. Once you set aside the recruited athletes, legacies, first gen, URM and int’l students, you’re left with the same admission rates as Regular Decision. ED/EA is strictly for “hooked” students — those who aren’t have no statistical advantage. ED/EA is actually a red herring for fools.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      While you are so convinced, you could not be more incorrect. And by the way, every single student can apply with a hook — they don’t need to be a legacy, first generation college student, recruited athlete, or underrepresented minority to do so.

      • Elena says:

        What is the acceptance rate for unhooked applicants who apply EA/ED? What is the percentage of unhooked applicants among those who get accepted EA/ED? The statistical data you refer to does not specify this information. For example, would a white male with top grades, scores, extracurriculars, essays , recommendation letters, but without any extraordinary achievements or hooks have increased chances of getting admitted if he applies EA/ED?

        • Ivy Coach says:

          What is an unhooked applicant? Every one of Ivy Coach’s students has a hook. Your question does not make sense.

          • Elena says:

            Ok, what is the percentage of admitted EA/ED who are not underrepresented minorities, first generation students, legacies, recruited athletes or celebrities?

          • Ivy Coach says:

            That data is non-existent and you’re not even specifying a school. For all ED/EA applicants to all colleges in America? You use the term ‘celebrity.’ Who, in your mind, qualifies as a celebrity? Is it the child of a well known CEO? Is it only an entertainer? Also, information on the percentage of admitted students who fall under categories such as underrepresented minorities, first generation, legacy — it’s all included in our compiled Ivy League Statistics.

            More importantly, you’re asking the wrong question and your question implies that you need to be an underrepresented minority, first generation student, legacy, recruited athlete, or celebrity to earn admission to highly selective colleges — which is patently false.

  • Elena says:

    I am not implying anything. I am just trying to figure out if your chances of admission to very top schools (Harvard, Sanford, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Duke, UChicago) in EA/ED round are significantly higher than in a regular round if you are not an underrepresented minority, first generation student, legacy, recruited athlete, or celebrity.

    Based on the information I could gather, of the accepted students in the early round at Harvard this year, 22.5 % are URMs (12.6% African American, 8.8% Latino, and 1.1 % Native Americans and Hawaiians), 8.7 % are 1st generation college students, estimated 15-20% are recruited athletes and estimated 10-15% are legacies. This makes up about 65-70% of the early accepted pool for Harvard. It leaves about 300 spots for the rest of EA pool, which yields admission rate for them of about 5%, give or take.

    I am trying to figure out at which top schools you get biggest advantage of being accepted of you apply early, not being URM, legacy, athlete or 1st generation student.
    I thought you can clarify this information, being the top consulting firm for ivy league admissions.

    Having this data would allow to make informed decisions.

  • Bernard says:

    I truly believe that in many cases, the perceived percentage advantage between early and traditional applications can almost entirely be attributed to quality of application. People that are serious about attending a school and decide to apply early tend to work harder to reach the standards of that school; but in general applications, students may be simply reaching unattainable heights. There is a significant difference in the average quality of applications between early and traditional applications that leads to more early applicants being accepted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *