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By Elizabeth LaScala

Understanding Early Decision in College Admission

Uploaded: Aug 13, 2017

Early Decision (ED) is an application program offered by many colleges and universities that provides an early admission decision in exchange for the student’s commitment to enroll. A student may only apply ED to one college, and, if admitted ED, a student must withdraw all other applications and enroll at the ED school. This may be common knowledge for many families in our college savvy community.

What is not commonly understood is that ED is an enrollment management strategy that always benefits colleges and only sometimes benefits families. ED is a way for colleges to secure ‘high yield’ students (full pay or nearly full pay students who will definitely enroll) for their entering classes. In contrast to the guaranteed admission that comes with just one ED acceptance, schools must accept 3-5 students or more in the Regular Decision cycle in order to secure the enrollment of a single full-pay student.

Colleges who offer the ED option consider one of three outcomes when students apply ED: acceptance, deferral and denial. If accepted, the student is expected to enroll. When deferred, or denied, the student is released from the ED commitment and can pursue other options—including ED at another school. Hence we have witnessed the emergence of ED2 application programs. This is another enrollment strategy used by colleges who know that high achieving students, who are denied at their first choice school, may look afresh at the next most selective school on their list and apply ED2 in order to increase the chances of admission there.

In past years it was recommended that only highly competitive students (who were convinced that a particular school was their very best match and whose parents could afford to pay total cost of attendance) should apply as an ED applicant. More recently, as colleges increasingly struggle to build enrollment with students who are both likely to come and to pay full tuition and fees, applicants who are “reasonably competitive” may benefit from the ED option. Reviewing the admission trends and institutional data kept by each college about ED admission can help to inform applicants about their best ED options and whether applying ED will actually increase their chances of admission.

Aside from upping the probability of admission, it is wise to consider ED only if your family can well-afford to pay for college expenses with existing cash flow (income in excess of current expenses which can be diverted to college costs), while still funding retirement goals and supporting younger siblings’ education, and/or care of aging parents. Only after close examination of these factors should ED be considered a reasonable option.

Elizabeth LaScala, PhD personally guides each student through each step of selecting and applying to well-matched colleges both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. With decades of admissions experience, Elizabeth has placed hundreds of students in some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the US and abroad. By attending professional conferences, visiting college campuses and making personal contacts with admissions networks, Elizabeth stays current on the evolving nature of admissions and generously passes that know-how on to her clients as well as the community at large in blogs and articles. Both college and graduate school advising is available and the number of clients taken is limited to ensure each applicant has personalized attention. Call Elizabeth early in the process for a courtesy phone consultation: 925.385.0562; Write [email protected]; Visit Elizabeth for detailed information for each grade level.