First, the primer on early decision (E.D.) and early action (E.A.).
Applying early decision makes sense when students know, without any doubt, that Old Ivy is absolutely the school of their dreams. Here's why, courtesy of the College Board.
Early decision plans are binding. Your child agrees to attend the college if accepted and if the college offers an adequate financial aid package. Although your child can apply to only one college for early decision, applying to other colleges through the regular admission process is allowed. If your child is accepted by the first-choice college early, all other applications must be withdrawn.
Early action plans are similar to early decision plans, but are not binding. If accepted, your child can choose to commit to the college immediately, or wait until the spring. Under these plans, your child may also apply early action to other colleges. Usually, candidates have until the late spring to let the college know their decision.
In both cases, the students need to have researched schools extensively, be sure the college is a first choice because it is a good match academically, socially, geographically, etc.; meets or exceeds the admission profile for SATs, GPA and class rank and has had a consistent academic record.
Here's a comment from a college admissions officer/Mom's College Cram Course panelist who is now dealing with E.D. applications.
"I think the basic reason E.D. numbers are up is because regular decision (R.D.) numbers will be up, too. It’s really a vicious cycle – kids apply to more schools, so accept rates go down, so kids apply to more schools, etc. The Common Application does make it easier to apply, and it’s no secret that schools use it to keep application numbers healthy. But it does mean kids don’t have to jump through hoops to apply to colleges given all the other things they’re dealing with senior year."
She adds, "As for E.D. specifically, at our school we’ve been very open about the fact that our acceptance rate is at least 10% higher for E.D. than for R.D. That, in turn, has increased our numbers for Early, but I don’t think unfairly. Every year I speak with students and parents who are disappointed in the R.D. process because our school was the first choice, and I know from my experience that the student would have looked much more appealing in the Early pool. (These are non-financial aid cases.) Actually, the financial aid issue is the one that keeps us from filling the class with a high percentage of E.D. applicants. We recognize that many students do need to compare packages."
Thanks to our panelist for taking a break from the E.D. process to share her insights.