Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Applying Early Decision: 5 Things You Need to Know

By Jordan Friedman
World Education Services

Early decision deadlines, which typically fall on or around Nov. 1, are just around the corner! If you apply early decision and are admitted, you’ve made a binding decision to attend a specific college or university.

There are benefits and downsides to applying to schools through the early decision plan. Here are five things you need to know before you do:

1. You’ll hear back from schools earlier than you would under regular decision: In addition to submitting your applications early, you’ll also hear back from the school earlier than you would through regular decision – usually by December. This can be seen as an advantage for high school seniors who will be able to get the stressful process out of the way but don’t take that to mean that you can slack off for the rest of the school year. Colleges can rescind their admission offer if they see a significant drop in your grades even after they’ve admitted you – and yes, it does actually happen.

2. You can only apply early decision to one school: You can only apply to one school under early decision, so make sure you’re confident in your choice. You should be set on attending that college or university. By applying early, you’re also indicating to the school that you’re truly interested in attending and that it’s your No. 1 choice.

If you aren’t sure if a certain school is the best option for you, or if you’re having trouble deciding between a few schools, you may want to consider applying through regular decision (or early action, if the option is available). Still, if you apply early decision, you have less time to explore your other academic options.

3. Your decision is binding: That being said, applying early decision makes your decision binding; there’s no going back once you’re admitted to a school under this plan. So again, be sure that you’re set on the school you’re applying to.

Extra Tip: Keep in mind that if you commit to one school under early decision, you are ruling out schools that might offer more attractive financial aid packages or scholarships. This gets a bit complicated for international applicants, who can’t qualify for U.S. government financial aid. So, if you’re in need of financial aid, you should carefully weigh your options.

4. If admitted, you need to withdraw all other applications: Even if you’re applying to a college or university under early decision, you’re still allowed to submit applications to schools under regular decision. But since an admissions offer under early decision is binding, you’ll need to withdraw all other applications if you’re admitted.

5. Even if you’re not admitted, there may still be hope: For some applicants, a college or university may choose to defer a candidate, meaning that they haven’t reached a final decision yet and will consider the applicant with the regular decision applicant pool.

As The New York Times put it, “Perhaps a college wants to see how the applicant’s grades are trending; maybe it is awaiting new and improved test scores. It could be that colleges have had an overwhelming number of strong candidates in the early pool and have opted to delay their decisions until they can assess the caliber of the rest of the applicant pool.” If you’ve been deferred, here are some suggestions on steps to take to increase your chance of being accepted.

Click here to learn more about the differences between applying to schools under early decision versus early action.

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