Many Early Decision letters went out this week. If you haven’t heard from your college yet, you will soon. In the last few years, more and more colleges have been offering an Early Action or Early Decision option. Both EA and ED are ways to apply early to a college and get a response early — often within a few days or weeks.
You can apply to any number of colleges with the EA method and you don’t have to tell the college your decision until May 1. With ED, however, you can only apply to one college with this method and you are bound to attend that school.
If you can get your materials ready on time, EA and ED can give you a big sense of relief early in your senior year. When relatives ask you those annoying questions at family dinners — “so, where you going to college?” — you have an answer for them. EA gives you the best of both worlds; you hear from your colleges early and you have the time to look at each one’s financial aid offer and make your best decision. The best reason to choose the ED option is if you know a school is your best match and financial aid is not an issue for your family. When you are accepted under an ED application, you are bound to attend that college.
Colleges like EA and ED for one simple reason: money. It’s expensive to recruit incoming students. According to one study, it can cost between $457 and $2,433 for each new student.* If colleges can lock in a substantial percentage of their freshman class early in the year, their costs go down. There is a debate as to whether or not your chances of getting in are better if you apply early, but the trend is clear. Colleges are spending a lot of time and money on early applicants. This year, for example, the University of Pennsylvania accepted around half of its incoming freshman class under ED.**
So what does this mean for you? If you’re accepted under an ED plan, are you “set”? Can you breathe a sigh of relief and coast through the rest of senior year? You know what I’m going to say — of course not! It’s possible to have an offer of admission rescinded if your grades tank, if you drop classes without notifying your college, or you fail to graduate high school. Most high schools send your final transcript to colleges in May or June and students who get major cases of senioritis have found themselves really stuck.
If you’ve gotten in to your favorite college with an ED plan, congratulations! You’ve done well and you can be proud of yourself. But don’t let things slide. You early birds can get that worm . . . but only if you hold onto it tight.