Every fall, high school seniors finalize their college lists and question if they should apply Early Decision (ED) to a given college. Parents wonder if there is any advantage to applying early to a school and worry if their child does submit an ED application, will the family lose the opportunity to compare financial aid offers from a number of colleges. Please note that the deadline for early applications is typically November 1; for some colleges it may be November 15 so it is important to double check deadline dates for all schools on the college list.
Higher Acceptance Rate for Both ED and EA
According to the 2017 edition of NACAC's State of College Admission survey, colleges reported an average increase of 10% in the number of Early Decision applications between fall 2016 and fall 2017. (The 2018 edition of this publication becomes available this November.) The number of acceptances of ED applicants also increased, by 11% for the same time period. Colleges that offer Early Decision reported a higher acceptance rate on average for ED applications relative to all applicants: 62% versus 51%.
Similarly, the number of applications submitted through Early Action (EA) increased as well, this time by seven percent. For fall 2017, 40% of applications to colleges with Early Action admissions plans were received through EA applications. The admit rate for EA applicants was 73% on average compared to an admit rate of 66% on average for Regular Decision applicants.
Hence, there is a significant advantage to applying EA to colleges and there is no down side. There is a down side to applying ED regarding financial aid. Early decision is a binding agreement and an acceptance means accepting the school's financial aid award even if a better one may have been offered from another institution. If a student receives an ED acceptance, the student will receive one - and only one - financial aid offer. Also, early acceptance typically includes a deposit on enrollment. If you back out of the commitment, you lose your spot and your deposit.
You Can Say 'No' to ED Acceptance
If a student applies for financial aid when he/she submits an ED application, and financial aid officials determine that the family does not qualify for aid, or qualifies for less aid than the family was hoping for, the student can decline the acceptance without penalty provided this is done immediately. This rarely happens, almost 90% of students accepted through ED do enroll in that institution.