Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Apply under a College Early Decision Plan

by John Chen

Ever since I was a freshman in college, I knew exactly which college I wanted to attend. My father, mother, grandfather, and sister went to the same school, so I guess you could say that it’s a tradition in my family. I knew that all of my relatives got a fantastic education there, so there was no question that I would attend the same college.

Since I knew from early on where I wanted to study, it only made sense for me to take advantage of the college’s early decision plan. By applying under the college early decision plan, I was able to apply early and get an admission decision well before the usual spring notification date. That meant I didn’t have to freak out till the last minute about whether or not I’d get accepted into a good school and I could start planning my move, arranging housing, etc. months before my peers.

Applying under the college early decision plan worked out well for me since I was absolutely sure where I wanted to study, but college early decision plans certainly aren’t for everyone. College early decision plans are binding, which means that you are obligated to attend the college if you are accepted and are offered an adequate financial aid package. If you don’t attend a school that accepts you under their early decision program, you could lose a hefty enrollment deposit and have difficulty getting accepted into other schools. Also, you are only allowed to submit one college early decision application; if you apply to other colleges, you can only apply through the regular admissions process.

There are perks to applying early, of course. Besides the fact that it eliminates the stress of having to wait till the last minute to find out which schools you’ve been accepted to, you benefit from the fact that most colleges and universities admit a slightly higher percentage of their early applicant pool than they do of their normal applicant pool. This means that you have a better chance of getting into your top choice college if you take advantage of their college early decision plan.

For me, this was good news since I goofed off in the second half of my junior year and my GPA suffered the consequences. If I had applied to my top choice college through the regular admissions process, I may not have been accepted since the acceptance rate is lower. I think being an early decision applicant definitely helped my case.

So, if you’re like me and you’re absolutely sure which school you want to go to, I would recommend taking advantage of the college early decision option and increasing your chances of getting into your top choice college. I wouldn’t recommend college early decision, however, if you are heavily dependent on financial aid because it won’t give you a chance to compare financial aid offers. For me, financial aid wasn’t an issue since my parents were paying for my education, but students who need loans and grants to pay for their college education definitely get the short end of the stick in college early decision programs.

I’d only advise you to apply under a college’s early decision plan if you’re 100% sure that you want to go to that school. If you’re relying on financial aid and aren’t absolutely decided about where you want to study, find out if the schools you’re applying to have early action programs or single choice early action programs, both of which are non-binding. Early action programs are a better deal because they give you the benefits of college early decision programs without obligating you to attend. That means that you are free to apply to other schools under their early action programs and compare financial aid packages before making a decision. Single choice early action programs don’t allow you to make early action applications to other schools, but you are free to apply to other schools under their early action programs.

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