When you apply to a college, it is important to consider not just what you’ll include in your application but also when you’ll submit it. About 450 colleges offer Early Decision applications, and for many schools their Early Decision deadline is November 1st. How does Early Decision work, and how has the coronavirus impacted it?
Early Decision has its benefits and drawbacks. Students can only apply to one school as Early Decision and if they get in, their decision is binding – they must accept it and reject all other offers. One of the great things about Early Decision is that you can potentially have secured your spot in a college by early December – leaving you worry-free the rest of your senior year of high school. It’s also great for students who have a dream school they’re set on. Applying Early Decision demonstrates an extra level of enthusiasm for that college and can help a student get accepted.
There are drawbacks to Early Decision, however. For one, you need to have completed your entire college application – including finishing your personal statement, attaining all your letters of recommendation and sending your high school transcript – far earlier than the typical spring application deadlines. The other is that if you are accepted into a school Early Decision, you are required to enroll there – meaning your choices are limited.
Some aspects of applying Early Decision have altered in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, students who apply Early Decision must concentrate on raising their SAT and ACT scores sooner than students who plan to apply in the spring. This year, many colleges – even selective ones – have gone test-optional, meaning that they don’t require students to send in a test score, thus giving Early Decision applicants one less thing to worry about.
On the flip-side, students who apply Early Decision have limited financial aid options. Typically, students who apply to multiple schools in the spring get a chance to compare financial aid packages everywhere they’ve been accepted, whereas Early Decision applicants don’t have the ability to shop for aid – they must take whatever they’re given by their Early Decision school. As the coronavirus has had a negative impact on many families’ ability to pay for college, financial aid is more important now than ever. Students may not be able to afford locking themselves into an Early Decision school.
One last thing to consider is the coronavirus’s impact on school enrollment. Early Decision students increase a school’s yield, or accepted students who also enroll. With enrollment in higher education down across the board, colleges may prioritize admitting Early Decision students over waiting for regular decision applications. That may result in a lower rate of admission for students who apply during the spring.
No matter when you send in your college application, you’ll have plenty of time to apply for scholarships. Scholarships can help you pay for school whether you apply Early Decision or wait until regular enrollment, and opportunities are ripe for high school seniors. Try a free scholarship search today and discover how you can save money on college costs any time of the year.