The Early Advantage

By Robert W. Andrews

I was struck today by a few blog posts and articles regarding the advantages of Early Decision in the college process. In each, there was an underlying message about financial aid. If you are concerned with financial aid, don't apply Early Decision. Without explanation this can deter many high achieving, low income students from applying in the early round having them lose out on a clear advantage.

If a college meets 100% of demonstrated need and the student and family is comfortable with their Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), financial aid should not be a reason to miss out on applying Early Decision. For students who have an EFC zero or a relatively low bottom line, applying to colleges under the Early Decision Plan can be a big advantage. This is especially important for "need aware" schools that are concerned about budget and yield. Advanced research is incredibly important. Talk to the admissions and financial aid office prior to applying Early Decision. Students and families can also use net price calculators to get an idea of the estimated cost for college.

Below is an article I wrote for the Schuler Scholar Program's Newsletter back in 2011 that talks about the success the Schuler Scholar Program has had with Early Decision.

As of March 1st (2011) roughly 42% of all senior Schuler Scholar matriculated to their first choice college having been admitted under an Early Decision Plan. The good news reached many by December 15 via email or snail mail.  Schuler staff was thrilled to receive texts, calls and hugs from scholars who found out good news. Applying Early Decision (ED) means entering a binding agreement and students who do so are signing a contract with one college saying that if admitted, they will attend the following fall.  Although scholars have to submit all application materials to colleges in November, if admitted, there is less stress during winter break and the rest of the year. Lynneise Jones (WHS ’11, Dartmouth College ’15) offers some sound advice about the ED process:

Wherever you go you’re going to love it. If there is a college that clearly sticks out on your list, then you should apply ED. It is not nearly as scary as it may seem. If you can't decide, then visit your top picks and make a pros and cons list. Sometimes college applications can completely take over your senior year and after you apply ED, you’re done with it. It's like four years of your life is written up and now you can enjoy the rest of high school. But after you apply, don't look at any other schools and be confident about your decision.”

Nataly Castro (RLHS ’11, Vassar College ’15) agreed.

“I applied ED because I felt that I loved Vassar, so why should I wait until regular decision? I know that Early Decision was right for me, not only because I wanted the competitive edge of being one of the first to apply, but also because now I don't have to apply to colleges that I really don’t  want to go to. The advantage of applying ED is that if you get accepted then you're done with applications. I decided to apply Early Decision because once I visited the campus I just knew that I wanted to go there. For me Vassar just had the right vibe.”

This year (2011) Schuler Scholars were admitted ED to the schools that follow:

Amherst College, Barnard College, Bates College, Brown University (2), Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University (3), Colgate University, Colorado College, Dartmouth College, Denison University (2), The George Washington University, Kenyon College, Lafayette College, Middlebury College, Pitzer College (4), Pomona College, University of Richmond (2), Smith College, Vassar College,  Wellesely College, Williams College (2).

The advantages are clear: less stress, higher acceptance rates according to recent New York Times articles and more time to enjoy senior year without wondering what you will be doing next fall. Still, it is hard to make such a huge commitment. Isabel Guadarrama (WHS ’11, Bryn Mawr ’15) offered some perspective on why she chose to apply under the ED plan:

“To me, once I had my list down to ten schools and started applying and attending the fly outs, I knew that some of the colleges weren't for me and my list shrank. I visited most of the 7 Sisters (elite Women’s Colleges) on my list and Bryn Mawr was the one that matched my personality. I wouldn't have applied ED if I didn't know as much as I did about Bryn Mawr.  In the end, I could only imagine myself there. When I talked about being in college, I would use the words "us" and "we" after I said Bryn Mawr and it felt natural. But the most enjoyable advantage about applying ED is that I don't have to worry about filling out any more applications!”

This year (Class of 2011), three scholars were admitted to Yale University under their REA (Restricted Early Action Plan) plan. Only time will tell if they choose to attend, but they are the first Schuler Scholars ever to be admitted to Yale. We had another major first this year too.  Our first scholar was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts.  We are thrilled that MIT selected a Schuler Scholar.   

By late February Schuler Scholars were admitted Early Action or received their acceptance letters to the schools that follow:

Beloit College, Brandeis University, Butler University, Case Western Reserve University, Colorado College, Cornell College, University of Dayton, DePauw University, Earlham College, Gonzaga University, Goucher College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Illinois Wesleyan, Kalamazoo College, Knox College, Lake Forest College, Lawrence University, Marquette University,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhodes College, Spelman College and Yale University.

As of March 1, 2011 67 Scholars out of 78 were admitted to at least one college. Not all scholars were admitted to their early-decision school, which reminds us that the admissions process is not just a numbers game. Strong grades and test scores coupled with amazing essays and letters of recommendation are needed to increase the likely of admission, but there is never a guarantee.

Congratulations to all the scholars who were admitted early and good luck to the rest of the seniors who will surely have amazing college options. 


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