Is early decision worth it?

Early action, early decision, regular decision—the list goes on and on.  High school seniors tend to submit more than one type of application each semester.  Some students apply regular decision, a non-binding application accepted or denied in the spring, while others apply Early Decision, a binding application submitted in the fall of senior year.

This year, about 70 North students applied early decision.  These applications were due in late October or early November.  A further 583 students applied via the early action program, a nonbinding option offered by some schools.

Many students apply ED in hopes of increasing their chances of acceptance.  Senior Kathryn Hundley said she applied ED to American University, “because I visited the school a couple times and I loved the environment and city the school was in.”  Hundley, who was accepted, added, “ED did increase my chances of acceptance, so it was the best choice for me.”

Typically, schools encourage students to apply early, but this year Michigan, a popular school among North students, deferred practically all of its early action applicants, according to an article on Examiner.com  (Michigan does not release early admissions data.)  “I thought I had a decent shot of getting in,” said one North senior whose Michigan application was deferred.  “It was slightly demoralizing.  I kind of freaked out and applied to a bunch of safeties afterwards.”

And according to Stanford University’s office of undergraduate admissions, which offers an early-action program, “Students who are applying early action and early decision are evaluated in the same way and the only advantage to applying early is an earlier response.”

But a spokesman for the admissions office of The College of New Jersey, which offers Early Decision and Regular Decision applications, said ED applicants do have an advantage:  “It definitely depends on the school, but for TCNJ, applying early definitely has an impact on a student’s chance of admittance.”

Jonathan Gelb, a senior, was recently accepted ED to Northwestern University, but for him, applying ED was not a way to increase his chances of admittance.  “It was a way of showing interest and finding out if I got in earlier, so I would not have to complete any other applications and could focus on school and scholarship applications,”  Gelb said.

Senior Rishov Dutta applied ED to Cornell earlier this year and was not accepted.  “ED has a higher acceptance rates for most colleges, and I wouldn’t have to worry about apps later on if I got accepted,” Dutta said.

North Guidance Director Lee Riley said lots of students share this belief.  “Students think that applying ED increases their chances significantly, when in most cases there is only a slight advantage,” Riley said.  “Most students apply ED for good reasons, but I do believe that some students use ED as a way to increase their chances of acceptance without being truly committed to the school.”

But some students choose not to apply early decision and stick to the regular decision route.  Alisha Kantikar, a senior, chose not to apply ED, instead submitting upwards of 25 regular-decision applications. “I applied regular for most of them since I don’t want a binding commitment to any school,” Kanitkar said.  “I chose to apply to one school early action, which is non-binding, because of its renowned bioinformatics program and because I was extremely impressed when I visited campus my sophomore year.”

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