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Blog #8: COLLEGE ADMISSIONS - Strategic Considerations For Applying Early Decision or Early Action

Updated: Aug 16, 2022



A big question in deciding whether to apply in the early admissions cycle (Early Decision or Early Action) is whether your student is ready! That really requires your student to do a self-assessment of where they stand against the admissions criteria of the college they to which they are interested in applying.


Applying under one of the early application options may be a good decision for your student when:


o Your student has researched their college choice options, and know early in their senior year their top choice college.

o Your student is comfortable that their first-choice college is a good fit academically, socially and geographically.

o Your student is comfortable that they are a competitive candidate for admission.

o Your student is positioned so that they can best showcase their strongest application (in terms of the applicant’s grades, standardized test scores, and application essays) early in their senior year.

o Your student is comfortable that they do not necessarily need the benefit of fall semester senior year grades or additional standardized testing results to strengthen their application for their first-choice college.


Admission rates for early applicants are higher!


There are other considerations when deciding whether to apply early. Some admissions officers have reported that applying early really doesn’t matter in terms of increasing your student’s chances of receiving an offer of admission from their first-choice college. This is because students are reviewed in the same way whether they apply early or not.


But while the review is the same, it is possible that the outcome could be different.


Here’s why….


o There are typically fewer candidates competing for early round slots.

o With a smaller applicant pool, your student’s chances of admission are going to be greater.

o But even though the applicant pool is smaller, your student will also be competing against a more competitive pool of candidates; these are students who are likely to have strong applications also, since they are applying early and in doing so make clear that the college is a first-choice for them (an underlying advantage since colleges want to admit students who intend to accept the offer of admission).


Even though the applicant pool is smaller, and more competitive, early-round admissions rates are higher than the rates for regular decision. Here is data for pre-pandemic 2019-2020 admissions:


College

Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Regular Decision Acceptance Rate

Early Decision Advantage

Brown University

17.5%

6.9%

10.6%

Rice University

19%

10%

9%

Duke University

21%

7.7%

13.3%

Johns Hopkins University

28%

8.8%

19.2%

Dartmouth College

25.5%

8.8%

19.2%

University of Virginia

35%

20%

25%

Emory University

40.2%

20.7%

19.5%

Pomona College

15%

6%

9%

Bates College

46%

14%

32%

Haverford College

46%

18%

28%

Wesleyan College

41%

21%

20%

Davidson College

47%

20%

27%

Williams College

39%

15%

24%

Pitzer College

37%

17%

20%

Amherst College

32%

12%

20%

Claremont McKenna College

28%

10%

18%

Northwestern University

25%

9%

16%

Boston University

33%

20%

13%

Tulane University

23%

11%

12%

Washington Univ at St. Louis

35%

16%

19%

Rhode Island School of Design

42%

27%

15%


The early decision advantage is pretty significant. For the schools we list, the advantage ranges from 9% to 32%!


So, here’s our answer: If your student is planning to attend college, have a plan and, if possible, try and position your student so that they can apply in the early decision round. There are clearly many personal circumstances that influence whether a student is able to apply in the early decision round; and for so many students it may be better to apply regular decision when your student is better able to present a stronger application. But if your student can position themselves to apply early, they should probably do so in order to increase their chances of admission to their first-choice school. Good luck!

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