Early Decision: Is It Right For You?

Chris Hernan, Staff Writer

The fall months of the school year mean one thing for Scituate High School seniors: college application crunch time. Applying early decision (ED) to schools has become increasingly popular over the years, mostly due to the Common Application. It also allows you to have priority over those who apply regular decision, and you can find out if you were accepted into the school sooner. However, only a handful of students decide to apply early decision to a school. According to SHS Guidance Counselor Marlene Hoffman, over the past few years, only two or three of her assigned students applied early decision. So why is applying ED so uncommon? Here are some important considerations before deciding to apply ED:

1. Understand your commitment.
Applying early decision is a binding contract, meaning that if you’re accepted, you’re committed to attending that school. You withdraw all of your other college applications and commit to attending that school. (Important note: You forfeit the ability to know where else you would have been accepted and their respective financial aid packages.)
If you’re unsure of which school you want to attend, applying early decision is NOT the best decision. Weigh your options and take your time doing so. Senior Colleen Secaur, who is applying early decision to Barnard College, described it best by saying, “College is not something everyone has to feel dead set on or find a ‘dream school’ for, but if you feel like a school is your top choice and it’s a viable option, ED is a good way to go.”

2. Understand the financial obligation.
An important part of the early decision contract is that if you get accepted, you may be expected to pay for tuition and fees in full. You can opt-out if you are financially unable to afford attendance, but that is the only exception. It also takes a whole lot of paperwork. Be completely confident in your family’s financial situation that you will be able to pay because your options are limited.

3. Talk to your family.
Your choice of college is a major decision, and your parents should have just as much of a say as you do–especially if they’re helping you pay for it. You may also have siblings who want to attend college, which is an important consideration. Finances, location, field of study, and credibility are all crucial factors in determining which college to attend. You should make sure that you and your family are on the (relatively) same page about these factors, or at least discuss them before coming to a decision.

4. Tour, tour, tour.
You should be as certain as possible about a school before committing to it, and sometimes it takes more than one visit. Touring a school is a great way to get a general sense of how you feel about it. Touring a school more than once, including at least one time during a school year, can help you experience the finer details of the college firsthand to be even more confident about your decision.

5. Reach? Go for it!
If you have your heart set on a school that is more competitive than others, applying early decision might be the right decision. Applying ED nearly increases your odds of getting into many schools by 10-12%, according to collegevine.com. Senior Maddy Porter, who is applying ED to Brown University, says that the Brown acceptance rate “Goes up from like 7% and usually goes up to something like 23% if you do early decision.” Every school uses different admission processes, but in most cases, applying ED makes a student more likely to be accepted. This option is ideal for applying to a reach school that you’re certain about wanting to attend.

The most important aspect of the college process, no matter the method of application, is to take your time. Making sure your Common Application, essay, and any supplements are fully completed is important to your mental health and will help to reveal your best self.