There’s an editorial in “The New York Times” by Frank Bruni entitled “The Plague of ‘Early Decision’” that we figured we’d discuss on the pages of our college admissions blog. We are never shy about correcting Mr. Bruni when he states inaccuracies or misleads his readers about the highly selective college admissions process, a topic he writes about extensively. And today will be no exception.
In his editorial on Early Decision, Mr. Bruni writes, “There’s plenty of evidence that applying early improves odds of admission and that the students who do so — largely to gain a competitive edge — come disproportionately from privileged backgrounds with parents and counselors who know how to game the system and can assemble the necessary test scores and references by the November deadline.” ‘Who know how to game the system?’ Mr. Bruni, how is it ‘gaming a system’ to apply by November 1st? How is it gaming a system to have one application completed two months before most other students get their acts together to first apply? Is to be organized, forward-thinking, and strategic to game a system? Please. Nonsense.
We’re actually not quite done with our rhetorical questions to Mr. Bruni. We’re just warming up! How is it gaming a system to examine clear and unequivocal data, to notice that highly selective colleges fill major portions of their incoming classes in the Early round, to see that admission rates are much more favorable if students apply by November 1st? Is making decisions based on data gaming a system? If so, Mr. Bruni, don’t bother watching baseball (Billy Beane who?). Don’t watch college football. Don’t go to a hospital if you’re in need of care and certainly don’t invest in the stock market. Our world operates on data and the suggestion that college applicants who apply Early Decision because the data suggests this is a wise move is gaming a system is just plain preposterous. Choose your words more carefully, Mr. Bruni.
Some parents come to us around this time of year in the hope that their child won’t make mistakes in the highly selective college admissions process that will hurt their case for admission. For most of these parents, their children have already made a major mistake. And that mistake is that their child didn’t apply Early Decision or Early Action. Just take a look at the data, through our compiled Ivy League Statistics. The odds of getting in during the Early round are so much more favorable than in the Regular Decision round. It’s apples and oranges. To not use your Early Decision or Early Action card, and to not use it wisely by applying to a reach school but not an impossible reach, is to not take advantage of one of the few cards that a college applicant has in their back pocket.
Many assert that Early Decision or Early Action is only great for athletes and legacies. These folks couldn’t be more wrong.
When we tell parents that this was a mistake not to apply Early Decision or Early Action, they sometimes tell us that they heard it’s harder to get in during the Early round, because so many athletes and legacies and such are applying then too. They sure are. Recruited athletes are often admitted in the Early round. And the same is true of legacies. But that doesn’t change the fact that when a non-athlete, non-legacy applicant applies Early and shows a school his or her unmatched love for that university, that university will show the applicant back a whole lot more love than if he or she simply applied Regular Decision. The odds of getting in for that non-athlete, non-legacy are so much stronger in the Early round and any information out there to the contrary is patently false.
Another line we hear quite a bit from parents is that students weren’t able to commit to a school in the Early round, that they wanted to apply to a bunch. And what do we have to say to that? Your child is going to have to commit to one school, in the end, anyway so he or she might as well do it in the Early Decision / Early Action round when the odds are, to paraphrase from “The Hunger Games” (coming off its worst box office opening this past weekend) “ever in your favor.”
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