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The Ivy Coach Daily

October 21, 2023

Schools with Early Decision for 2023-2024 Admissions Cycle

A look inside a wood-paneled library with green felt chairs at Dartmouth College.

Are you trying to figure out which colleges offer binding Early Decision policies? If so, you’ve come to the right place. We at Ivy Coach have the complete breakdown of which of America’s most highly selective universities have ED policies.

What Does Early Decision Mean?

But first, what exactly is Early Decision? Unlike Early Action, Early Decision is a binding policy under which applicants commit to attending the school if offered admission — they cannot attend any other school. Students who apply Early Decision submit their applications typically by November 1st of their senior year in high school. Each school with a binding Early Decision policy will not allow students to make binding commitments to other schools, as that would be akin to marrying two different people simultaneously. And, yes, colleges are extremely strict about honoring the ED policies of their peer institutions!

With that rule in mind, students who apply Early Decision to one school may also apply Early Action to any public university. And for most colleges, students can also apply Early Action to private universities with explicit non-restrictive policies, like the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For instance, Early Decision applicants to Dartmouth College can apply Early Action to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, and other public universities (they can also apply to the University of California schools by November 30th). Additionally, they can apply to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, among others. Both UChicago and MIT are private schools with non-restrictive Early Action policies.

What Is Early Decision II?

To make things even more complicated (it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it), some schools with Early Decision policies also have Early Decision II policies. Of course, students who apply through Early Decision II policies either didn’t apply ED I anywhere or were deferred or denied in the ED I round.

Early Decision II applicants apply around January 1st through mid-January, depending on the individual school’s Early Decision II deadline, of their senior year of high school at the same time that they apply Regular Decision to other schools.

When a student applies Early Decision II, they’re making a binding commitment to attend that school if offered admission — even if they happen to earn admission in Regular Decision to a school they’d prefer to attend, including even the school that may have deferred their admission in the ED I round (they shouldn’t have made a binding ED II commitment if it wasn’t their first choice!).

Top Schools That Offer Early Decision

Top National Universities with Early Decision Policies

Below are the top national universities, as ranked by US News & World Report in its 2024 college ranking, with Early Decision policies:

College / University2024 US News Rank
University of Pennsylvania#6
Duke University#7
Brown University#9
Johns Hopkins University#9
Northwestern University#9
Columbia University#12
Cornell University#12
University of Chicago#12
Rice University#17
Dartmouth College#18
Vanderbilt University#18
Carnegie Mellon University#24
Emory University#24
University of Virginia#24
Washington University in St. Louis#24
New York University#35
Boston College#39
Tufts University#40
Boston University#43
Lehigh University#47
University of Rochester#47
Wake Forest University#47

Top Liberal Arts Colleges with Early Decision Policies

Below are the top liberal arts colleges, as ranked by US News & World Report in its 2024 college ranking, with Early Decision policies:

College / University2024 US News Rank
Williams College#1
Amherst College#2
Pomona College#4
Swarthmore College#4
Wellesley College#4
Bowdoin College#9
Carleton College#9
Barnard College#11
Claremont McKenna College#11
Grinnell College#11
Middlebury College#11
Wesleyan University#11
Davidson College#16
Hamilton College#16
Harvard Mudd College#16
Smith College#16
Vassar College#16
Colgate University#21
Haverford College#21
Washington and Lee University#21
Bates College#24
Colby College#25
University of Richmond#25

Top Colleges with Early Decision II Policies

Below are the top national universities and liberal arts colleges with Early Decision II policies:

College / UniversityEarly Decision II Deadline
Bates Colleges #January 11
Boston College *January 10
Boston University *January 4
Bowdoin College #January 5
Carleton College #January 15
Carnegie Mellon University *January 3
Claremont McKenna College #January 11
Colby College #January 1
Colgate University #January 15
Davidson College #January 2
Emory University *January 1
Hamilton College #January 4
Haverford College #January 6
Johns Hopkins University *January 4
Lehigh UniversityJanuary 1
Middlebury College #January 3
New York University *January 1
Pomona College #January 8
Smith College #January 1
Swarthmore College #January 4
Tufts University *January 1
University of Chicago *January 4
University of Richmond #January 1
University of Rochester *January 5
Vanderbilt University *January 1
Vassar College #January 1
Wake Forest University *January 1
Washington and Lee University #January 1
Washington University in St. Louis *January 1
Wellesley College #January 1
Wesleyan University #January 1
* – Ranked in Top 50 of 2024 US News & World Report ranking of Best National Universities# – Ranked in Top 25 of 2024 US News & World Report ranking of Best Liberal Arts Colleges

Early Decision FAQs

When are Early Decision deadlines?

Most of America’s highly selective universities have Early Decision deadlines on November 1st of each year.

When do Early Decision admissions decisions come out?

Most of America’s elite schools release Early Decision notifications in mid-December — typically between December 10th through December 15th.

Can my child breach an Early Decision agreement?

While anyone can breach an agreement, they’d be pretty foolish to do so. America’s elite colleges are peers. They respect one another. If they learn that your child breached a binding Early Decision agreement and applied to their school, it will not only likely jeopardize your admission, but it could get you blacklisted at many of America’s top schools.

The only acceptable reason for trying to get out of a binding Early Decision agreement is if your family’s financial circumstances have significantly — and demonstrably — changed since your child applied. It’s written in every Early Decision agreement’s fine print.

Is Early Decision a round that favors privileged applicants?

Many would argue that the Early Decision round favors the privileged, but it shouldn’t only favor these candidates. The fact is that students from privileged backgrounds are more inclined to apply ED, but if underprivileged applicants made binding ED commitments, they too would enjoy an advantage.

The notion that applying ED forecloses the possibility of comparing financial aid offers is nonsense. A parent can easily plug in their family’s financials on a college’s admissions website through the Net Price Calculator — before applying– and understand what kind of financial aid they’ll receive. As such, they don’t need to apply to many schools in the Regular Decision round to compare financial aid offers. It’s a common misconception.

Are the benefits of applying Early Decision more substantial than Early Action?

Yes, the Early Decision advantage is stronger than the Early Action advantage. In short, students have made a binding commitment to their ED school. They’ve demonstrated their love. These schools so often show that love back to these candidates by offering them increased odds of admission.

If my child is a procrastinator, should they skip the Early Decision round and apply Regular Decision?

No! Your child would be wasting the most valuable card they have in their back pocket: their Early card. To not apply Early is one of the biggest mistakes an applicant can make in the elite college admissions process.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Early Decision Applications

If you’d like to optimize your case for Early Decision admission to the college of your dreams, fill out Ivy Coach‘s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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