If you’re absolutely, positively sure a school is your #1 choice, go for early decision. But if you can even remotely envision a scenario where you receive an acceptance from your ED school and you aren’t literally jumping for joy, stick to Early Action or Regular Decision.
I only recommend a student apply to a college or university under an early decision agreement after they have done exhaustive research on what they school has to offer both academically and financially. They should visit at least twice. They should sit in on a class. They should spend the night if possible. They should most certainly visit, tour and interview. Most importantly, they should ensure with their parents that the total cost of attendance after financial aid is a figure they can afford. I discourage early decision applications to any college or university that does not in explicit terms guarantee to meet a student’s full financial need. I also warn them that a student’s financial need on paper may not align with a student’s financial reality. Just because a FAFSA gives an expected family contribution (EFC) upon submitting that form does not mean a college or university will come up with that same figure, especially if that school utilized the CSS Profile, a much more detailed financial aid form used by a number of highly selective institutions.
It depends, but generally if the student was positive that a school is a first choice and the family is not concerned about comparing financial aid awards from different schools it might make sense.
Apply EARLY DECISION only if: 1. If you LOVE LOVE LOVE the college!!! Applying EARLY DECISION lets them know you want them and only them. 2. If you actually have a shot of getting in. Don’t waste an early decision application on a school that you have no chance of getting into. 3. If your record is strong as it is. You don’t need December test scores or fall grades. 4. If you don’t want to know what other colleges you can get into. 5. If you and your family can afford the college. 6. If you have some connection to the college, and EARLY DECISION is where you get benefits because of that connection.
I would push ED on a student with the following make-up:
I recommend applying early decision in only 2 situations:
One, if you have absolutely no financial concerns so your decision is not dependent on an award package.
Two, if you have known your WHOLE life that this is the school for you and you will just die if you don’t go there. I think at age 18 if is hard to know anything for sure, so proceed accordingly.
You should apply under an early decision or action plan only if you are entirely confident of the college you want to attend. These plans make a lot of sense if one college is your clear preference and if your profile closely matches that of the students at that college.
Do not apply under an early decision or action plan if you plan to weigh offers and financial aid packages from several colleges later in the spring. Also, you shouldn’t apply early if it is to your advantage to have more of your senior year work to show a college. If you plan to woo an admission office with your excellent grades this year, you may want to wait until after the semester ends to apply to colleges.
If financial aid is of no consequence, the student is a legacy student, or there are no other schools the student desires to apply to.
My take on this question is a little different from what I often hear.
If you have a number 1 college on your list, a college that you so love that if you get admitted, you’d be ready to pack your bags, then consider applying early decision. There are a couple of items, though, to take into consideration before applying ED:
Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.
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