So You've Applied Early Decision to College: What's Next?

Padya Paramita

So You've Applied Early Decision to College: What's Next?

It’s been a long fall and you’ve arrived in November. You’re here because you’ve applied early decision to college and you’re wondering what your next steps should be. An easy answer is that you should never just sit idle. Even if you do end up getting admitted ED, you shouldn’t take that for granted at this moment. 

To help guide you through the next phases of the application process once you’ve applied early decision to college, we have outlined what you need to do right now, as well as how to prepare for various early decision results: acceptance, deferral, and rejection. 

Focus on Schoolwork

You’re still a senior in high school and no matter what, your 12th grade results matter! Don’t use this time to be complacent. Focus on everything that lies ahead in school. Once you’ve applied early decision to college, check in with your AP and honors classes, syllabi and teachers to make sure that you haven’t accidentally fallen behind. Catch up and stay on top of everything. Your grades will matter, especially if you end up having to apply to an ED II or RD school. Given how competitive the admissions landscape is right now, you need to make sure you don’t slack in school. 

Think about Whether to Apply ED II

Similar to early decision I, early decision II is offered at several colleges as an option for you to apply at a later date—usually around the same time as the regular decision date - and sign the same early decision agreement. If your ED I school is extremely competitive, you might have your eyes on another option you’re equally willing to commit to. Some cases in which you might apply early decision II are:

  • If you weren’t ready for ED I - You could consider an ED II school if you weren’t able to finish your essays on time. Or you might have wanted to retake the SAT or use your grades from senior fall. Whatever the reason, if you weren’t prepared to apply during the November round, you might want to take advantage of the later deadline. If your grades from the fall are better than your junior grades, or you’ve grown more in your leadership for your extracurriculars, you’ll have a greater chance of competing with strong students than you would have had you applied ED I.
  • If your second choice school offers ED II - If your ED I school didn’t work out, while you might be feeling sad for the first week or so, it’s time to pick yourself up and think about how to move forward. Was there another school that you had been considering applying ED I? Does it also offer an ED II option? If so, here’s your chance to emphasize your commitment towards another school that matters to you almost or equally as much!
  • If you would be happy committing - Speaking of commitment, it’s important to ask yourself whether you would truly be happy at the institution for the next four years if you were accepted. While you can’t predict the future, consider whether what you know about the school excites you. Remember that breaking out of the agreement isn’t recommended unless you’re unhappy with the financial aid package, so you need to make an informed decision before you decide to apply to an early decision II school.
  • The ED advantage - Often, schools use early decision applications to monitor yield, since admitted students are bound to attend the college. As a result, just like ED I, ED II provides you with the advantage of automatically demonstrating the willingness to enroll. Plus, you compete with a smaller pool of students - so even statistically speaking, apply early decision II provides you with a greater advantage than choosing regular decision. 


Finalize the Rest of Your School List if You Haven’t

Once you’ve applied early decision to college, remember that results won’t be out until mid-December. So, there’s no point just waiting and doing nothing. Focus on your regular decision options. Remember that your list must always be balanced in terms of reach, fit, and safety schools. In case you need a refresher, reach schools are schools that might be difficult for you to get into because they are extremely selective or because you fall below the average range for enrolled freshmen. These colleges often are what many applicants consider “dream schools,” and are the most competitive. You probably have applied early to a reach school, and could have a couple others in mind for the RD round.

Target schools are those that meet your numbers—this list of schools is entirely subjective, depending on your GPA and SAT score. Target schools don’t guarantee admission either, as a lot of factors are considered beyond your grades. Schools are defined as “safety” if your academic credentials are above the average range for admitted freshmen. This doesn’t always mean you’re a shoo-in either, but it’s good to cover your back and keep your options open. As you figure out the rest of your list, don’t forget to keep plenty of targets and safeties on your list!

Have a Plan In Case You’re Deferred

Many students are often deferred from their top choice college, which means that the school will reconsider their application profile in the regular decision round. If you end up falling in this pool, you’ve still got a shot. This is a very realistic decision students often have to face once they’ve applied early decision to college. The step here would be to write a letter of continued interest emphasizing that the university is still your number one, as well as reiterating any recent accomplishments and grades that have been released since you submitted your Common Application profile in November. 

Whether you are deferred or rejected, you should revisit your school list to decide whether there’s any college that might be tough given your current profile. Most importantly, don’t take acceptance at the school where you’ve been deferred for granted —while a small portion of deferred students do get admitted every year, the reality is that most are rejected in the RD round. So, keep applying to regular decision schools and make sure you’ve kept a good balance of reach, target, and safety options. 

While an important part of the process is out of the way once you’ve applied early decision, the journey is far from over. Keep focusing on schoolwork and remember that you shouldn’t lose hope if the announcement does not go your way. There are still ways to work hard on your application and ensure that you still get into a top school that is a strong fit for you. Good luck!

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