Deciding Early Against Early Decision?

By Adelina Branescu

As I was logging in to my Collegeboard account the other day to register for the SAT, I couldn’t help but think about the decisions I knew I’d have to make in the following year: what colleges to apply to, which one to apply early decision/early action to, and which one to attend, ultimately. I’ve always kept in the back of my mind the assumption that everyone picks one school to apply early to. I’ve assumed that I would too, of course. Which college to pick seemed stressful: should I pick my favorite, even though it might have a low acceptance rate? In other words, would applying early to a school where the (early) acceptance rate is still very low, a waste? Should I, instead, strategically pick one where my chances increase if I apply early? Following these questions were others that plagued my mind: what if I commit to a college, only to find that they offer poor financial aid? Will they let me apply to other schools? What if other schools would have offered me a better deal? I also couldn’t stand the idea of committing to a school without knowing if my chances at a different, “better” school, were higher. And on top of all that, how was I supposed to pick my favorite school, anyway?

I decided to find the answers to my questions by looking online and asking fellow seniors. Good news: a student can immediately turn down their binding, early-decision application if the school did not offer enough financial aid. And, some schools offer early-admission, which is a non-binding, early application. Both options usually allow you to pick only one school for that type of application. However, many students choose not to apply early-decision because they do not want to deal with the possibility of being accepted to their ED school, finding out that they cannot attend for financial reasons, having to immediately prove to those schools that they cannot afford to attend, and then beginning applications all over again, feeling devastated.

As for the issue of deciding which school to apply early to, I still have yet to find any “good news.” The truth is that picking which school to apply early-decision to is difficult, and for many, not worth the challenge. Andrew Moore (’17) did not apply early decision because he “wasn’t properly informed enough about colleges to decide a top school,” and still wouldn’t consider himself to be; it takes visits to many schools, waiting to see what financial aid they offer, and lots of targeted research to make a decision.

Now, the whole purpose of me writing this article is to express my aversion towards making binding decisions prematurely, so I’m not going to prematurely commit to skipping on early decision. However, skepticism in mind, after research and discussion, I can safely say that it’s a flawed system and reflects one of the many issues with the college admissions process. I will surely be thinking twice about it when my time comes next fall.

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