A Defense of Early Decision

Early Decision, Early Decision Merits, Merits of Early Decision

There is an editorial in “The Dartmouth Review” that speaks to the merits of Early Decision policies.

There was an article yesterday in “The Dartmouth Review,” the conservative student publication at Dartmouth College once led by the likes of Laura Ingraham and Dinish D’Souza (they were once engaged) that essentially serves as a defense of Early Decision. Of course, the most often cited case against the merits of Early Decision policies at universities across America is that such policies favor the privileged. As Devon Kurtz writes for “The Dartmouth Review,” “The most often discussed issue with early-decision is that it notoriously favors students from prep schools, the Northeast, athletically competitive high schools, and wealthier backgrounds, as well as students with parents who are alumni. Early-decision, and its ‘benefit’ of a higher acceptance rate, seems to favor the already privileged students, while lower income students from adverse backgrounds and lower tier high schools battle it out in the fiercely competitive regular decision round of admission.”

But this, of course, is a fallacy. Admissions officers at highly selective colleges like Dartmouth College are seeking underprivileged students in the Early Decision round just as they’re looking for them in the Regular Decision round. It’s not like in the months of November and December, first-generation college applicants and students from low-income families aren’t of interest to admissions officers — that their interest only peaks in January, February, and March. Admissions officers covet these students in Early Decision just as they do in Regular Decision and any suggestion otherwise is, well, ridiculous. Are there a lot of recruited athletes in the Early Decision round? Are there a lot of legacies? You bet. But there are privileged students in the Regular Decision round too and this doesn’t change the fact that colleges are always, always searching for geographic diversity, ethnic diversity, socio-economic diversity…you name it.

If the argument is that not enough underprivileged students apply in the Early round, well, that’s not a knock on the policy. That just means that awareness needs to be raised about the benefits of applying Early — including the significantly higher acceptance rates. So many low-income students choose not to apply Early because they don’t know of these benefits, because they lack strong college counseling, because they’re under the misimpression that there’s this great benefit in the Regular Decision round that you can weigh various financial aid offers. It’s a misimpression because you can figure out what kind of financial aid you’re going to receive from a given institution before you even apply — through the Net Price Calculator. So why do you need to wait to weigh financial aid offers? The argument is unsound.

And so is the argument that Early decision favors the wealthy. As Kurtz writes, “The benefits of early-decision speak for themselves: lower acceptance rates, more loyal students, higher four-year retention rate, lower transfer acceptance rate.” Early Decision doesn’t favor the wealthy. It favors the students who are willing to commit. It favors the students who are willing to show their love for a university.                    

An Early Decision Myth

Early Decision, Myth of Early Decision, Early Decision Myths

Students who don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action waste a valuable card in their back pocket (photo credit: Jazz-Face).

One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process. These misconceptions are put out there in the press, by high school counselors (not all high school counselors are experts in college admissions…in fact, most aren’t), by the neighbor’s third cousin once removed, and by just about everyone in between. But it’s the high school counselors that often frustrate us the most. What’s the expression? A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to many high school counselors giving advice on highly selective college admissions.

The Founder on Ivy Coach was a high school counselor on Long Island for many years and she was always so frustrated that so many of the counselors advising students were simply giving incorrect advice. But allow us to show, not tell — as we tell our students in their college admissions essays. Half Hollow Hills is a prestigious school district on Long Island. Online, they’ve published advice on the pros and cons of applying Early Decision or Early Action. In it, they write, “Some colleges will say that students have a better chance of admission if they apply early using early decision, but it really depends upon the applicant pool and how selective the college is overall. A student shouldn’t count on early decision to increase his chances of admission greatly, but if he is sure that this college is the one, it won’t hurt his chances if he lets them know that he cares enough to make this early commitment.”

Too many high school college counseling offices perpetuate falsehoods about highly selective college admissions — like completely understating the advantage of applying through Early Decision and Early Action policies.

This is false. Applying Early always helps a student’s case for admission. Just look at the clear and unequivocal data on the statistical advantage of applying through an Early policy as compared to through a Regular Decision policy. It doesn’t depend upon the applicant pool. And not only will it not “hurt” one’s chances to apply Early — it’ll vastly help one’s chances! How on earth could it hurt a student’s chances of getting in to make a binding commitment to a school, to show that school they’re loved above all other schools? Come on, Half Hollow Hills. Get it together and stop perpetuating college admissions myths. It only makes the admissions process more confusing and more stressful for students and parents alike.

What college admissions myths is your high school’s college counseling office perpetuating? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.

Binding Early Decision Commitment

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Applying Early Decision

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” about students who violate binding Early Decision policies.

There’s a piece up on “US News & World Report” by Alexandra Pannoni entitled “What Happens to Students Who Back Out of Early Decision Offers” that we figured we’d share with our readers. It should first be noted that we have never, in over a quarter of a century of being in business, had a student back out of an Early Decision offer. When a student applies Early Decision, that student makes a binding commitment to attend that institution — with an emphasis on the word ‘binding.’ That’s the whole point of applying Early. It’s why a student’s odds of getting in are stronger in the Early round. Students show their commitment to a school and that school shows its commitment back. It’s why at so many highly selective colleges, such a major chunk of the incoming first-year class is already filled with Early candidates.

But what happens when that rare student chooses to violate the Early Decision policy, to break their word, and apply to other institutions after being admitted to a school through Early Decision? The words ‘at their own peril’ come to mind. Colleges share lists. Why would a college knowingly admit a student who applied to another college under a binding Early Decision program? Can it happen? Can schools not cross-reference? Yes. But they often do. And school counselors — who value their longstanding relationships with colleges — will quite often reveal breaches of Early Decision commitments. So to those rare students who cross their fingers and hope they’ll get away with it, we have two words for you: you’re nuts. Because you’re risking getting blacklisted.

As Pannoni writes, “The early decision agreement is not legally binding and the school wouldn’t go after the student for tuition, but there could be other consequences. If, for instance, they found out a student somehow had applied to two different places early decision, or even another early action and the student had broken the early decision agreement, [Williams College Director of Admission Richard] Nesbitt says they’d call the other schools and the student would risk losing both acceptances. It may not be that difficult for schools to determine if students are playing the system. A student’s high school guidance counselor may be aware of what the student has done and contact the school, says Nesbitt.” We could not agree more with Richard.

2016 Early Decision Notification Dates

2021 Early Decision Dates, 2021 Early Action Dates, Class of 2021 Early Action

We’ve got some notification dates for Early Decision and Early Action applicants to the Class of 2021.

For those students waiting to hear from their Early Decision / Early Action schools, we figured we’d update you with anticipated notification dates. After all, there’s no sense checking your phone every day, every hour on the hour if you know the decision isn’t coming for another several days, right? Seriously. Stop checking your phones so much. And we know you’re doing it more than every hour on the hour. You’re checking every five minutes. Enough. Go for a walk. A swim. Go fly a kite.

Brown will be notifying applicants on December 14th. Cornell will have them beat. They’re notifying applicants on December 8th, Columbia on December 12th. Dartmouth will notify applicants on December 14th, Harvard on December 13th. Princeton still hasn’t released word on the precise date they’ll be informing Early Action applicants, though UPenn has and it’ll be on December 9th. Yale will release word on December 15th. So that covers the Ivy League colleges. Glad we got that taken care of. Phew.

Outside the Ivies, Duke will release decisions on December 15th, Stanford on the 9th. Northwestern will release on the 15th, Johns Hopkins on the 16th. Williams and Amherst will both release on the 15th. Oh and Carnegie Mellon and Emory will send out word on the 15th too. But this is dreadfully boring to check the notification dates on each university’s admissions page so if you’re curious to know one, just ask away. Or just look it up yourselves. On the school’s admissions homepage. So there’s that. We know you can do it, Class of 2021!

Commitment of Early Decision

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Binding Early Decision

Early Decision is a binding commitment, one so many students are scared to make. Use that to your advantage as an applicant (photo credit: Gavin Huang).

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.

Crazy Students Don’t Apply Early Decision

Apply Early Decision, Applying Early Decision, Applying Early Action

Does the University of Pennsylvania value its Early Decision applicants? You bet they do (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

We firmly believe that only crazy students don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action. The odds of getting in through the Early Decision or Early Action round (depending on the college’s policy) are so much stronger than are the odds of getting in during the Regular Decision round. Just look at the statistics at the University of Pennsylvania if you’re unaware of the drastic difference in a student’s chances of admission in the Early round as compared to the Regular round. Does the University of Pennsylvania value its Early Decision applicants? You bet they do. They love students who love them.

And the University of Pennsylvania is not alone. All colleges want to be loved. They’re insecure like that. Applying Early gives them a sense of security. Because when you apply Early Decision, you make a binding commitment to that school that you will attend. And that of course helps the school’s yield since 100% of students (with a couple of rare exceptions) who are admitted Early Decision will matriculate. It’s important to know that yield indirectly impacts a school’s “US News & World Report” ranking, which is fundamentally important to the admissions offices at every single highly selective college (no matter what it is they tell you about rankings). In Regular Decision, these schools have to sway students to choose them, to love them over other schools. If a school has an Early Decision policy, they don’t have to sway any admitted students about anything. They have that sense of security in that way.

Too non-commital to commit to a school in the Early round? Get over it and get over it fast.

And for those schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford that have Single Choice Early Action policies, most students who are admitted in the Early round will end up attending, even though it isn’t a binding commitment. Most folks don’t turn down Harvard. So, yes, a student has better odds of getting into these four universities if he or she applies Early too.

To not apply Early Decision or Early Action…it’s nuts. You have to make a commitment to one school in the end anyway. Why not do it in the Early round when the odds are ever more in your favor, to paraphrase from “The Hunger Games”?

Early Decision 2 Round

ED2 Round, Early Decision, Early Decision Round Two

Emory University is one institution with an Early Decision 2 round.

Most highly selective colleges have only one round of Early Decision. But at some schools — both highly selective, selective, and not particularly selective — there are two distinct rounds of Early Decision. So we figured we’d share with the readers of our college admissions blog the colleges that offer two rounds of Early Decision. Well, actually that list is a bit long for our liking so we’ll cherry pick the highly selective or selective ones. Apologies to any we chose not to cherry pick.

American University, Bates Colleges, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University, Carleton College, Claremont McKenna College, Colby College, Colorado College, Connecticut College, Davidson College, Emory University, George Washington University, Grinnell College, Hamilton College, Harvey Mudd College, Lehigh University, Middlebury College, New York University, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Pomona College, University of Richmond, Sarah Lawrence College, Smith College, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University.

So many of the small liberal arts schools in New England offer two rounds of Early Decision. We’d sure call it a trend. Wouldn’t you? Have a question about Early Decision 2? If so, post your question below and we’ll be sure to write back.

Early Decision Commitment

Early Decision, Early Action, Early Decision Policies

We strongly disagree with the points of an op-ed in “The Daily Pennsylvanian” in which the writer argues against Early Decision policies. We find his points to be a bit out of touch with reality.

If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know that we encourage our students at Ivy Coach to make an Early Decision commitment by applying to a college with an Early Decision policy, or to apply to a college that offers an Early Action policy. It’s one of the few cards that students have in their back pockets. To not use this Early Decision or Early Action card is wasteful and, at Ivy Coach, we are not fans of waste. If you simply peruse Ivy League admissions statistics over the years, you’ll note the clear statistical advantage of applying Early as opposed to in the Regular Decision round. We’re not naive to believe that that are not critics out there of Early Decision and Early Action admissions policies. Of course there are critics. There are always critics. And, in fact, one critic of Early Decision admission at Penn wrote an op-ed a couple of days ago in “The Daily Pennsylvanian” that we figured we’d discuss.

In the op-ed written by Penn student David Britto entitled “Why pride isn’t an admissions criteria,” Britto argues that Early Decision essentially favors the more committed over the less able applicant. In fact, Mr. Britto writes, “Faced with the hypothetical choice, we would rather have the less able, but more committed student. This strikes me not just as undesirable, but also categorically unfair: Should I have less of a shot at a great education because I didn’t apply early or show commitment, even with equal qualifications? That seems contradictory to the principle of meritocracy that universities like Penn are supposed to stand for.”

And what do we have to say about this? Hogwash. Who says Ivy League admission is a meritocracy? Who says Penn is all about creating a meritocracy? If that’s the case, then why should donors get their names on Penn buildings? Why should legacy admission exist at Penn and other highly selective colleges? Why should Affirmative Action policies exist not only at Penn but at highly selective colleges across the United States? Highly selective college admissions is no meritocracy. There are elements of meritocracy to the process. Mr. Britto’s suggestion is in fact rather naive. And his argument that commitment shouldn’t matter is nonsense. Colleges are businesses. They care deeply about their yield rates. Why should a business not look to secure the students who are committed to attending just as a clothing store should try to get people to come to the store who will buy their jeans? Mr. Britto, Wharton is a phenomenal business school. You’ve received an outstanding education. But when you enter the real world next year, you might be in for a wakeup call.

Harvard and Princeton Early Programs

Harvard Early Action, Princeton Early Action, Early Action at Harvard, Early Action at Princeton

Harvard and Princeton have reinstated their Early Action programs.

There’s been a great deal of reaction circulating with regard to Harvard and Princeton’s recent decisions to reinstate their Early admissions programs. In this editorial by a current Cornell student, Ruby Perlmutter dissects why she thinks the decisions of Harvard and Princeton reflect an elitism that counters Harvard and Princeton’s very argument that the decision will further increase the diversity of the student bodies at the respective schools.

Writes Perlmutter, “Harvard and Princeton’s move four years ago to do away with early decision and their progressive grant-based automatic financial aid program sent a much more promising message — that it may be incredibly difficult to get into Harvard and Princeton, but each application starts equal. These competitive universities don’t need to make admission easier, but it should be equally hard for all applicants. If all universities dropped Early admissions, perhaps these institutions could remain elite, and slightly less elitist.”

Check out the full editorial in “The Cornell Daily Sun” here.

The Harvard and Princeton Admission Spin

Harvard Admissions Spin, Princeton Admissions Spin, Harvard and Princeton Admission Spin

Harvard and Princeton have returned to Single Choice Early Action (photo credit: chensiyuan).

Harvard and Princeton’s announcement this past Thursday that they will be re-instituting Single-Choice Early Action programs for the Class of 2016, after they announced the elimination of similar programs in 2006, came as no surprise in the world of competitive college admissions. And neither did their PR spin.

For years, Harvard had a Single-Choice Early Action program and Princeton had a binding Early Decision program. Yet in 2006, the Harvard and Princeton administrations chose to eliminate these programs and instead only offer admission through a single Regular Decision pool. Their chief motivation? They claimed it was to increase the diversity of their student body.

Said Harvard President Derek Bok three years ago, “Early admission programs tend to advantage the advantaged. Students from more sophisticated backgrounds and affluent high schools often apply early to increase their chances of admission, while minority students and students from rural areas, other countries, and high schools with fewer resources miss out. Students needing financial aid are disadvantaged by binding early decision programs that prevent them from comparing aid packages. Others who apply early and gain admission to the college of their choice have less reason to work hard at their studies during their final year of high school.”

Said Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, “We agree that early admission ‘advantages the advantaged. Although we have worked hard in recent years to increase the diversity of our early decision applicants, we have concluded that adopting a single admission process is necessary to ensure equity for all applicants. We believe that elimination of early admission programs can reduce some of the frenzy, complexity and inequity in a process that even under the best of circumstances is inevitably stressful for students and their families. We hope very much that our decision will encourage other colleges and universities to join in eliminating early admission programs.”

Now four years later, Harvard and Princeton are re-instituting Early policies and, interestingly, university administrators are citing the very reasons they used to eliminate the programs in 2006 as they are to reinstate them in 2011. Said Princeton’s Tilghman upon reinstating the program, “By reinstating an early program, we hope we can achieve two goals: provide opportunities for early application for students who know that Princeton is their first choice, while at the same time sustaining and even enhancing the progress we have made in recent years in diversifying our applicant pool and admitting the strongest possible class.”

Charlie Sheen’s longtime publicist recently resigned in light of his client’s rampage in the press. Is it possible he has resurfaced as the spin doctor for Harvard and Princeton? The truth of the matter is that Harvard and Princeton are reinstating their early programs because other colleges did not follow suit by eliminating their own early programs. Harvard and Princeton were thus left at a competitive disadvantage and while their applicant numbers and admission statistics continued to rise, they likely could have risen even higher if they had not eliminated their Early policies in the first place.

For all the applicants who want to use their early card and maybe even end the process in December, no doubt many of them applied Early Action to Yale or Stanford, or Early Decision to another school. It has long been said that Early Decision or in Yale’s case, SCEA (Single-Choice Early Action), attracts the best and the brightest – certainly the most motivated because these applicants are finished with their applications by November 1st. For all we know, the applicant pool at both of these schools may have been weaker than in the years when Early Action and Early Decision were in existence at Harvard and Princeton.

Said Dartmouth Dean of Admission & Financial Aid Maria Laskaris in an article in “The Dartmouth,” “We all saw a jump in applications when the schools eliminated their early programs several years ago because a group of students who would have applied early to either Harvard or Princeton didn’t have an early option and so they applied regular decision to a broader cross-section of schools. So I think [the recent announcement] would certainly depress some of the growth in the applicant pool that all the schools would see.”

And therein lies the truth.