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The Countdown to Early Decision College Acceptances

When I ask my high school senior what day it is, she doesn’t say Friday or December 3rd, no, to her the answer is “12 days.” Her friend even modifies that to 12 days, 16 hours.

What is this strange code?

It’s the number of days until my daughter and all the other early applicants like her find out if they’ve been accepted Early Decision to their first choice college. Early Decision, or ED as it’s more commonly known, refers to when college applicants apply early, typically by November 1st or November 15th. When you apply early, you get a speedy response from the colleges, usually by December 15th.

I’ve also heard ED referred to as “one and done!” Meaning, apply to one college and if you’re lucky, you’ll be done! While there is a perceived advantage to applying early as the admit rate is typically higher in the ED pool as opposed to the regular pool, college admissions officers will say their ED pool of applicants is usually academically stronger and often includes recruited athletes.

A downside to ED is that it’s binding. Meaning if you get in, you have to go – which doesn’t sound like such a bad idea if it’s the Ivy League school for which you’ve had a t-shirt in every size as you’ve grown up.  However, if you’re looking for financial aid, you’ll lose that ability to compare packages amongst all your accepted schools.

Early Action or EA is another way for students to apply early to college and the benefit is that EA is not binding. EA does seem to be the best of both worlds as students can find out by December 15th if they’ve been accepted but they can also wait to hear from other colleges. However many highly selective colleges only offer ED.  And then there’s Harvard, which has no early decision application opportunities.

The vast majority of students won’t get into college via Early Decision or Early Action, and for that reason, they should be ready to immediately jump back into the application process. Some students have already submitted applications to other colleges, knowing that if they get accepted, they simply withdraw their application.

But for most students, a rejection from ED or EA means it’s back to the drawing board. Back in the dark ages before the electronic Common Application form, applying to a second or third or fourth… college wasn’t as easy as it is today. Now, students already have most of their application uploaded. The only extra work is when a college has a supplemental essay such as the very original, why do you want to go our school?

News flash! My daughter just checked her college portal and discovered that the school of her dreams will be notifying everyone of their possible acceptances earlier than the original December 15th date. Now she’s going to find out on December 10th at 4pm PST. Wow- her countdown just shrunk to 7 days, five hours, 35 minutes and ten seconds. But who’s counting?!

Juliet Giglio
Educational Consultant in California

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