Many students and parents wonder if they should be applying Early Decision or Early Action or if they should be waiting until the Regular Decision round before submitting applications. The fact that students and parents even debate this issue drives us mad. If these students and parents wish to make one of the biggest mistakes in the highly selective college admissions process, by all means wait it out. Skip the Early Decision or Early Action round. See what happens. Or, choose to wisely apply to a reach school — but not an impossible reach — in the Early round and you’ll deploy the best strategy possible to earn admission to the best school possible.
What the Naysayers Say About Early Decision and Early Action
The refrain of the peanut gallery which stands firmly against applying to college in the Early Decision or Early Action round goes something like this: “With exception to recruited athletes, legacies, and the children of donors, among others, there is no competitive advantage to applying Early. While the statistics may indicate it’s easier to get in during the Early round, the statistics are deceiving because such a huge percentage of the Early pool is filled with these types of students. For the exceptional student who doesn’t fall into one of these categories, their odds will be better in the Regular Decision round when they’re not going to be up against so many recruited athletes, legacies, development cases, etc. And why should students have to commit to a school in the Early round when they can wait until the Regular Decision round when they get to weigh their options? They can even compare different financial aid offers in the Regular Decision round.”
At Ivy Coach, we would much prefer to bake apple pies than try to convince someone that they are wrong, that so much of what they’ve said is utter nonsense. But every sentence in the peanut gallery’s argument is, in no uncertain terms, utter nonsense. If they wish to hold firm to such beliefs, we wish them all the best. If you’re not going to listen to your lawyer, why seek counsel? If you’re not going to let your plumber fix your pipes but will instead try to fix that leaking sink all on your own, you’re all on your own. And that sink will likely keep leaking. But if they don’t want to have a leaky sink, then open up your minds and good things may come.
Why Early Decision and Early Action is the Best Strategy
Those statistics that the peanut gallery dismisses so flippantly are telling. For the Class of 2021, at the University of Pennsylvania, 22% of Early Decision applicants earned admission. In the Regular Decision round, 6.8% of applicants earned admission. For the same class at Dartmouth College, 27.8% of Early Decision applicants earned admission. In the Regular Decision round? 8.5% got in. And the trend is not only for schools with Early Decision policies. It’s also for schools with Early Action policies. For the Class of 2021 at Harvard, 14.5% of Single Choice Early Action applicants earned admission. In the Regular Decision round, a mere 3.4% of students earned admission. We can go on and on. But take a look at the statistics with your own eyes because the numbers, in this case, tell a story that cannot — and should not — be ignored.
Are there recruited athletes in the Early round? You bet. Are there legacies in the Early round? You bet. But these same critics of Early Decision and Early Action, many of whom suggest that these policies favor the privileged, fail to mention that many underrepresented minority applicants and first generation applicants tend to apply Regular Decision rather than in the Early round. And this is but one example of the tough pool of applicants a student will face in the Regular Decision round. How about the students who applied to too big of a reach in the Early round, like a Harvard, only to realize their mistake and set their sites on a Dartmouth in the Regular Decision round. Now, that student who didn’t apply Early to her top choice, Dartmouth, because she didn’t see the value in applying Early Decision, well she’s now up against an applicant with perfect grades and perfect scores. Good luck to her! Fingers crossed.
We understand that some data can be misleading but the Early Decision and Early Action data is not misleading. It tells an important story. And to the peanut gallery which suggests students should have the option of deciding which college is best for them, they have that option — in October. Students have to commit to one school in the end anyway. They might as well commit Early when the odds are much more in their favor. As for weighing financial aid offers, plug your numbers into the Net Price Calculator online. You can figure out what kind of money you will or won’t get from a school. You don’t have to wait until Regular Decision notifications go out in March. That’s just silly.
We hope we’ve converted the skeptics of Early Decision and Early Action. And if we haven’t converted those who are utterly convinced that applying Early Action or Early Decision isn’t in their interest, well, we have no interest in trying to change your tune. We’d prefer to go bake an apple pie. And for any newbie reader of our college admissions blog, like in the hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” we have recurring expressions on our blog like our love of baking apple pies. Accept it. We’re weird. Our students at Ivy Coach are too. It’s one of the key reasons why they so often get in.