Choosing Between Two Early Decision Schools: Where Should You Apply?

Padya Paramita

Choosing Between Two Early Decision Schools: Where Should You Apply?

It’s that time of the year where rising high school seniors have begun to Google colleges of all kinds, jotting down their favorites and adding them to tiered lists. As you go through the search process and find schools that stand out to you, you might have picked a couple of favorites that you want to consider for early decision. Or, you’ve had more than dream school in mind. Either way, you have more than one option and you’re faced with choosing between two early decision schools. Since it’s a binding agreement, you can apply only to one. How do you make the decision?

When you apply early decision, you sign a binding agreement—you’re choosing to commit to the school if you are accepted. This is in no way a decision that should be made lightly. You must weigh the pros and cons of the colleges you’re considering, and go through various steps in your research to come to a conclusion that will make you happy for the next four years. If you’re stuck choosing between two early decision schools, this blog has outlined some steps you can take to select the best option for you.

Compare Everything

When you think about where you’re going to spend the next four years of your life, you want to pick a place that will provide you with the resources and facilities you need to best pursue your interests and goals. So, if you’re choosing between two early decision schools, you must compare both colleges’ offerings. Which one has classes that you would be more excited about? Does one of them have the perfect minor for you? Is there a professor in one of them whose research falls within everything you want to work on in the future?

Don’t just look at academics. You’ll also be affected by the environment around you. Are the two locations vastly different? If you’re considering NYU and Brown, for example, New York City and Providence are two entirely different kinds of areas. Plus, NYU has its campus spread out all over rather than constrained to a certain area. Consider factors such as weather, city life, and even nearby restaurants. You never know what might be the deciding factors. 

Or, you might be comparing a national university and a liberal arts college. Consider whether you wish to have smaller classes or more facilities inside laboratories. You may be swayed to apply to a college with a smaller faculty-to-student ratio and lean in the liberal arts direction ultimately. Or, you might realize that the national university sports scene is far more preferable for your social life.  

How Do Your Stats Line Up?

One of the reasons applying early decision is a wise choice is because far fewer students apply in this round and as a result, even statistically your chances of acceptance are higher. As a result, as you’re choosing between two early decision schools, you want to apply to the college that you believe you have the best chance of being accepted to. So, if you like the two colleges equally, it’s time to take a look at your own stats and compare them to theirs. Which of the colleges have a median GPA and test score for admitted students that is closer to theirs? Which has a higher early decision acceptance rate? For some schools, applying early decision makes a big difference as they highly value applicants who want to commit to them. So, take a look at all of the historical facts and data as you come to a conclusion that is best for you.

Take a Look at the Application Workload

When you’re a high school senior you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. You’re juggling academics, extracurriculars, test dates, and college applications. So, as you’re choosing between two early decision schools, you might wish to apply to the one which requires lesser work. Chances are, both of them use the Common Application, so you’ll need to write a personal statement no matter what. However, when it comes to school-specific supplemental essays, the workload can greatly vary between schools. If you’re deciding between Northwestern, which asks one 300-word question, and Duke, where there are three supplemental essays, you might be compelled to pick Northwestern as your one early decision college because of the lesser workload if all else is the same when it comes to what these colleges can offer you.

Does Either School Offer ED2?

There can be a pretty easy solution to your dilemma of choosing between two early decision schools if one of the colleges you’re looking at offers an early decision II route. Early decision II is an application option where students apply in early January for a binding commitment if admitted, and they hear back in early February. Applying ED2 shows a similar level of commitment as applying ED1 but you can apply to two different schools for each round (given that you don’t get into your ED1 school). Since you can only apply to one place during each early decision round, if you’re choosing between a college that has only early decision I, and another school that has both ED1 and ED2, and you’re equally excited about both colleges, it might be worth considering the first school as your ED1 school, and then if things don’t work out, you can apply to the other school for early decision II. 

Talk to Current Students or Alums

Finally, as you scrutinize every single factor that may affect your decision in choosing between two early decision schools, make sure you talk to current and/or past students about their experiences at these colleges. Of course, not everyone will have the same experiences, but it helps to hear a firsthand perspective of someone’s time in a certain environment and what they liked and disliked about it. Since you sign a binding agreement if you are admitted early decision, you want to apply to the school that will be the absolute best fit for you. So, listen to other people’s anecdotes, try to imagine yourself in each college, and decide which one might be a better fit.

If you have two colleges that equally excite you, it’s a big task choosing between two early decision schools. You should go into the process with an open mind, researching at every step, and taking various factors into consideration. Hopefully, you will draw a conclusion that brings to light the best college for you—and maybe you’ll even be accepted. Good luck!

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