Early Decision: Is it worth applying?

Jane Fleischman

More stories from Jane Fleischman

College applications are an incredibly stressful process and to top off the whole experience is the waiting. Months and months of waiting for a letter that may determine your future. But what if there was a better way?

According to the College Board, of the hundreds of colleges, about 450 allow for Early Decision applicants. Now, what is that? Early Decision allows for students who have a very clear plan for their college plans to apply to a choice college early to find out in December. If accepted, they have to revoke all other applications and attend that school.

The College Board only recommends Early Decision for students with a concrete plan for the future and a definitive first pick for college. It’s a large commitment and many students like senior Filimon Getachew have chosen not to apply Early Decision.

“There’s a commitment. You don’t know the whole package you’re going to get,” Getachew said.

This has been a common criticism of the system because, in this sense, it’s harder for students with less money.

“Unless you’re [fully] committed to the school and financially sure of your position, don’t early apply,” Getachew suggests.

Senior Hannah Johnston chose to apply Early Decision to try and increase her chances of admission. She chose a school where she feels reasonably confident of her chances.

“I was really torn between UNC and Northeastern but it’s unlikely [that] I’ll get into UNC, and they don’t even have Early Decision so I thought why not help my chances at Northeastern,” Johnston said.

Whether or not applying Early Decision helps your chances at getting in varies from school to school. Some schools only set a small portion of their class for Early Decision whereas others accept many applicants.

Because of the nature of Early Decision, if Johnston gets into Northeastern, she will have to attend.

“I’m kind of stuck now because if I do get into UNC, I’ll be disappointed that I can’t go if I’m accepted at Northeastern,” Johnston said.

Johnston also applied to UNC for Early Action. Early Action is very different from Early Decision because it is nonbinding. An applicant just applies early and will hear back earlier than regular decision applicants. Based on her experience, she has some recommendations for students who might choose to apply Early Decision next year.

“My advice would be to only do Early Decision if you’re absolutely sure you want to go to that school,” Johnston said.

For those who are sure, like senior Nikhil Reddy, Early Decision may be a very good idea. Reddy applied Early Decision to his first pick, Columbia University. He really liked the feel of the school when he visited it and it’s strong in the fields he is interested in.

“The school has a really good computer science program,” Reddy said.

Other students have already found out, or will very shortly.  December 12 was a big release date and Reddy received a response. He was deferred and will find out if he will be accepted in March. Despite not finding out yet, Reddy is still happy with his choice to apply ED.

“It was a good experience,” Reddy said.

The choice whether or not to apply Early Decision is a very important one and should be thought about carefully. Another important note is to apply to schools normally as back-up options if you don’t get in. For example Reddy also has applied through the regular process to six or seven other schools of interest to him. An Early Decision school in the end is just another school on your application list.