We are bumping up against Early Action/Early Decision deadlines for college applications and families around the country are in panic mode as they believe the only chance their child has at selective schools is to apply Early. This is honestly not the case and I’d like to dispel some of the myths surrounding this decision deadline.
Early Decision (ED) is a legally binding contract between your child and the school. If they are accepted ED, they must withdraw the applications from all other colleges. They will attend this particular school, regardless of the financial aid package. Do not expect that your child will be offered any merit aid. Those scholarships are used strategically to lure top students in who are unsure of where they want to attend. The ED pool does have a higher acceptance rate at some schools than Regular Decision, but keep in mind that the pool is MUCH stronger. Your child’s application is being jostled among the best and brightest in the country. Another problem with the Early deadlines is that many students honestly are not ready to apply. Their essays are still rough, their activity section a mess, and many just dump it into the application and hope for the best.
Do NOT apply ED if:
- your child needs good financial and merit aid and they must attend the school that offers them the best deal. This can change drastically from school to school and you won’t know what everyone is offering until you have it all on the table.
- your student is not absolutely sure that this is their first pick college.
- your child is rushing to meet the deadline and their application is not in good shape.
- your kid has not met the testing requirements and their scores will not be available for this round.
Early Action (EA) is not binding and therefore does not give your child as much of an edge as colleges are not guaranteed that they will attend, even if accepted EA. You do get an answer quicker and can decide whether to apply to the other schools on your list, so it can save you some time and money. Your student will still be compared to other kids in a very competitive pool. Do NOT apply EA unless the student’s application is in excellent shape and their standardized scores will be available in time.
Early Hybrid Programs – there are many mutations of Early programs and sometimes multiple levels of Early possibilities at a single college. Do your homework and know what each college means with an Early application and what their deadlines are.
Despite the hype, most kids are still accepted in the Regular Decision (RD) pool, even some who have applied early and been deferred to the RD round.
So remember, early programs are not the only option and your student can actually hurt themselves in the long run if they throw together a hasty application and get rejected in the early round.
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