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.
We know, we know. Yet another post on the advantage of Early applications. Whatever. Deal with it. We regularly make a point of expressing the importance of a student using his or her Early Decision or Early Action card and using it wisely. As our compiled Ivy League Statistics for the Class of 2020 make clear, admission rates are significantly stronger in the Early round as compared to the Regular round. Look no further than the University of Pennsylvania as a case example, though the University of Pennsylvania is surely not alone. Each and every single Ivy League college favors its Early applicants to its Regular applicants. And when folks chime in through the media to echo this point, we’ll always bring what they say to the attention of our readers, just in case they’re not listening to us.
So here’s a quote on the advantages of applying Early from a former Northwestern University admissions officer, Jaime Garcia, as it appeared in “The Washington Post”: “If you are 100 percent sure where you want to go, seek early admission. Generally, college admissions officers know that those who apply for early decision are those who have a higher satisfaction rate when they are on campus. Because early decision is a great indicator for this satisfaction, schools frequently have goals and benchmarks for admitting a particular percentage of students through early decision. They won’t tell you this, but early-admission acceptance rates are often higher than regular acceptance rates. It is also less competitive because the applicant pool is smaller than regular decision.”
As Jaime Garcia expresses, Early applicants, in general, end up being more satisfied once they attend the Early school that offered them admission compared to their Regular Decision peer applicants. Colleges don’t want students to transfer. That’s bad for business. And they want students to be happy. That’s good for business. So do these colleges favor Early applicants? You bet they do!
Ivy Coach salutes Jaime Garcia for telling it like it is, for speaking the truth, and for not being shy to articulate these extremely valid points on the pages of the newspaper Woodward and Bernstein helped make one of the most respected journalistic sources in the world.
So, we ask our readers, is there an advantage to Early applications? Post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.
Afraid to make an Early Decision commitment? Lots of students choose not to apply Early Decision to schools that have Early Decision policies. And why? In our experience, it’s typically because they’re not ready or willing to make a binding commitment to a university. Maybe they need more time. Maybe they’re indecisive. Maybe they wake up loving one school one day and another school the next. It may seem like we’re describing a 20-something New Yorker navigating relationships through Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and the like but really we’re describing high school seniors! They’re often equally as noncommittal.
But this is a mistake. At the end of the day, college applicants choose one school to commit to. They only go to one school, not ten. So our argument at Ivy Coach is…why not commit to a school in the Early round, when the odds are so much more in an applicant’s favor? If they’re going to have to commit to one school anyway, why not do it a few months earlier so they can optimize their chances of getting into the best school possible. After all, the odds of getting in during the Early Decision / Early Action round are so much stronger than the Regular Decision round. If you’re not familiar with these statistics, peruse our compiled Ivy League Statistics. The difference is surely not subtle.
We also hear about a lot of folks who choose to apply Early to a school that offers Early Action as opposed to Early Decision because they’re not willing to make this commitment and Early Action isn’t binding. But that is rather silly. The odds of getting in Early to a school that has an Early Decision policy are even stronger than to schools that have Early Action policies. If you show your unwavering, singular love for a university, they’ll want to show that love back to you. So don’t be a chicken — apply Early.
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.”
Hope to avoid making other major mistakes in the highly selective college admissions process? Fill out our free consult form and you’ll receive a reply from Ivy Coach within the day.
Thinking of applying to one college or to twenty colleges this college admissions cycle? There’s a piece up on “Insider Higher Ed” entitled “Most Freshmen Apply to One College, Data Suggest” that we figured we’d write about on the pages of our college admissions blog. For loyal readers of our blog, they know our position on applying to colleges — apply Early Decision or Early Action. By applying Early Decision or Early Action, an applicant’s odds of getting into his or her dream college are so much stronger. Just take a look through our compiled Ivy League Statistics through the years. The data tells the full story, better than our analysis of it ever could.
So maybe so many students are applying to only one college because we’ve been successfully getting the word out over the years. Maybe. Maybe not. According to the piece, “Two-thirds of college freshmen who applied for federal student loans or grants last year indicated that they were applying to only one institution, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday. Sixty-eight percent of freshmen filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid during the 2014-15 academic year instructed the Education Department to send their information to only one college, the department said. That’s down from 80 percent in the 2008-09 school year. The Obama administration called the new data ‘troubling.’ ‘By focusing on only one school, students run the risk of being turned down for admission or losing out on better financial aid and educational opportunities from another school, with ramifications that can last a lifetime,’ Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.”
If our Secretary of Education disapproves of the trend of students applying to only one college, the Secretary of Education should scrutinize misaligned incentives.
But Secretary Duncan, with due respect, have you considered looking through the statistics at the highly selective colleges — for the Early Decision / Early Action round as compared to the Regular Decision round? If you did so, you’d know that the incentives are misaligned. Just like in real estate, with brokers. The more you pay for a house, the more your own broker gets. “Freakonomics” taught us this. Well, the incentives are misaligned with respect to applying to one school as compared to many schools, too, if you think about it. Perhaps, Secretary Duncan, instead of lamenting the problem, you should propose a viable solution if you truly believe it to be a problem. That’s just our two cents.
There was an article recently in “The Los Angeles Times” entitled “More high school seniors taking early admission to college” by Carla Rivera that we figured we’d discuss. The article, which focuses mostly on California students and universities located within California, articulates how more and more students these days are choosing to apply through Early Decision or Early Action programs. As you may know from reading our college admissions blog, we always encourage our students to apply Early. In fact, if a student is unwilling to apply Early, we’ll often choose not to work with this student. Because our students, overwhelmingly, tend to get in by heeding our sound advice. One of the few cards that students have in their back pockets is their Early card. To not use it is to waste it.
Just check out the statistics for the University of Pennsylvania as a case example. For the Class of 2018, Penn had a 9.9% overall acceptance rate. In the Early Decision round, 25.2% of students earned admission to the university and these students filled 53.7% of the university’s incoming class. In Regular Decision, 7.3% of students who applied to the University of Pennsylvania earned admission. So, to recap, it’s 25.2% in the Early Decision round and 7.3% in the Regular Decision round. One need not be a mathematics major to know that there is a significant advantage in applying Early Decision to Penn. While the statistics aren’t always this striking, the same trend is true at many highly selective colleges across America.
As the article on students applying Early in “The Los Angeles Times” points out, “More than 460 colleges nationwide, many of them top private institutions, offer early options as well as the chance to apply during the later, regular period. Most students still choose the latter. But the number of colleges offering earlier deadlines has increased by about 7% in the last five years, according to the College Board. And most of those colleges report that they are receiving more early applications, according to surveys conducted by the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling.”
Have a Comment on Early Decision or Early Action policies? Let us know your thoughts by posting below. We look forward to hearing from you.
One of the things we like to do on our college admissions blog is to point out popular misconceptions and inaccuracies relating to the highly stressful admissions process. In an article in “The Dartmouth,” America’s oldest college newspaper, in which our Founder, Bev Taylor, is featured, there is a belief asserted by a high school director of college counseling that is not correct. The high school director of college counseling is certainly not alone in having this misconception but it’s important that we clear the air for our readers. So what’d he say that we disagree with?
According to “The Dartmouth” article on admissions figures, “The only early decision schools that have not seen a decrease in their applicant pools are schools that either provide a ‘significant selectivity discount’ for those who apply during the early round or have specific programs that draw a narrow applicant pool, [Mr. Durso-Finley] said. Examples of schools with ‘selectivity discounts’ are Duke University and Vanderbilt University, where admissions counselors advertise that applicants are advantaged by applying early decision. Schools with specialty programs include the University of Pennsylvania, with Wharton Business School, and Cornell University, with its school of engineering, he said. Durso-Finley said he does not believe that Dartmouth’s early decision program provides students with greater chances of admission if they apply early.” Furthermore, “The Dartmouth” quotes him as saying, “Psychologically, applying to a binding program to a school that offers the exact same chance early and regular simply does not make sense anymore.”
Mr. Durso-Finley, we kindly ask you to look at the numbers. Check out our compiled Ivy League Statistics. There is an Early Decision advantage in applying at Dartmouth as well as at a host of schools not mentioned to have a ‘selectivity discount.’ Last year at Brown, as an example, the overall acceptance rate was 9.6%. The acceptance rate for Early applicants stood at 19%. At Columbia, it was 7.4% overall and 20.4% for Early applicants. At Dartmouth, it was 9.4% overall and 25.8% for Early Decision applicants. 9.4% is not the same as 25.8%. The numbers are great indicators. There is a distinct advantage to applying Early Decision vs. applying Regular Decision to a school like Dartmouth. Or Brown. Or Columbia. Or most schools that have an Early Decision option. We don’t know where you learned that this wasn’t the case but hopefully you see the figures and realize the difference in odds. Legacies and recruited athletes are two examples of groups who also have a distinct advantage in the Early round of admission.