The Mistake of Not Applying Early

Early Advantage, Early Decision, Early Action
To not apply in the Early round is to waste the most valuable card in elite college admissions.

If you’re a high school senior who isn’t applying this Early Decision / Early Action round, you have made the biggest mistake in the college admissions process. That’s right. We said it. You see, you’ll hear others tell you that it doesn’t matter when you apply, to take your time, to apply when you feel it’s right, and lots of other nonsense. But they’re not telling you the cold hard truth: it does matter when you apply as there is a major advantage in applying Early. Indeed the numbers tell the story.

The Statistical Advantage of Applying Early vs. Regular

For the Class of 2023, 5.2% of Regular Decision applicants earned admission to Brown. In the Early Decision round, 18.2% of applicants earned admission. At Dartmouth, it was much the same story: 6.1% of Regular Decision applicants earned admission, while 23.2% of Early Decision applicants got in. At UPenn, 5.5% of Regular Decision applicants earned admission, while 18% of ED applicants got in. At Harvard, 2.8% of Regular Decision applicants earned slots, while 13.4% of Early Action applicants got in. Shall we go on or are our readers getting the idea? The trend holds true at each and every one of the Ancient Eight institutions.

The Nonsensical Argument Against Applying Early

And so why don’t all students apply in the Early round? Well, some students come from high schools at which the high school counseling isn’t all that good. The students aren’t receiving sound advice. Still others are led to believe by folks like New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that the Early round is essentially a playground for the privileged and if you’re not privileged, you need not apply Early. And that, in our humble opinion, is a load of apple pie, dental floss, and yesterday’s coffee grinds all mixed together in one.

The Argument the Early Round is Filled with Recruited Athletes and Legacies

“But, Ivy Coach, isn’t the Early round filled with recruited athletes?” Yes! “And, Ivy Coach, isn’t the Early round filled with legacies and development cases?” Yes! “So why are you encouraging me to apply Early? Aren’t the statistics not painting an accurate portrait? Isn’t it all somewhat deceiving” No! The statistics are absolutely painting an accurate portrait. It’s easier to get in during the Early round than the Regular round by a wide margin. This is true at each and every highly selective college.

It Would Logically Then Follow the Regular Round is Filled with Underrepresented Minorities and Low-Income Students

In fact, let’s ask some questions back at you so you realize your error. “Isn’t the Regular round filled with low-income students? Isn’t the Regular round filled with underrepresented minorities? Isn’t the Regular round filled with students who will be the first in their families to attend college? Aren’t these all coveted groups by highly selective colleges?” You bet! So how exactly does the logic of Frank Bruni make sense? Why shouldn’t any student who wants an advantage in the highly selective college admissions process — irrespective of their race, irrespective of their socio-economic status, etc. — apply by November 1st?

And don’t tell us that you want to weigh financial aid offers. That’s more dental floss mixed with coffee grinds and apple pie. Plug your numbers into the Net Price Calculator online and you can see precisely what kind of aid you might qualify for. Or you’ll realize you don’t qualify for aid at all. In our experience, the folks who wonder if they qualify for aid…don’t qualify.


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  • Allison says:

    We did not apply for need-based aid and would not have gotten it. All my kids applied ED in order to better their chances of getting in to selective colleges. Two got in that way. So I absolutely believe in using the ED advantage. But I am bothered by one aspect of your argument here. First you dismiss the need for people to see their financial aid offers as a deterrent to applying ED. I understand that this is true in most cases, but I have read recently that the federal government’s template calculator is terrible and inaccurate and so schools that use it are giving out inaccurate estimates (American University was one of them). But even if we agree that financial aid offers can be calculated and known early leaving no need to worry about that, still applicants don’t know what scholarships they might be able to secure at different schools and THAT is something that might keep someone who needs funds from applying ED.

  • Jefferson Bowen says:

    I respectively disagree with Ivy Coach on ED for students who require need based aid. Why? Not all schools give equal packages based on Net Price Calculator; and just because you may demonstrate need of X, that doesn’t mean the school has to offer you x. They may offer you x-20%. That is up to their discretion. There is no law compelling schools to meet 100% of your need.

    The sad truth is ED does not allow you to leverage competing financial aid offers from other schools. With ED, you either take it or leave it, and you can only leave it if the financial aid package doesn’t provide you enough money to attend.

    The benefit of ED accrues to the schools more than the students who require aid. Admissions officers know those accepted ED are “good money” and will pay the sticker price. In fact, elite schools only need 25% of the admitted class to pay full boat to grant the other 75% aid.

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