Why You Must Start Choosing Your Early Decision College Now

Padya Paramita

Why You Must Start Choosing Your Early Decision College Now

Your junior year is pretty much over and summer is on the horizon. As you work hard on your AP exams, plan SAT sittings, and go far in your extracurricular leadership opportunities, the time for creating your school list is also edging closer. By now you should have some idea of the type of schools you’re interested in, whether it’s big universities with large class sizes, schools with strong STEM programs, or liberal arts colleges near your hometown. November might seem far away, but it’s not too soon to start choosing your early decision college.

You probably already know how cutthroat the 2020-2021 application season was, with the pandemic, test cancellations, and an outpouring of applications at almost every school. Applying early action or early decision to a college shows your commitment to your dream school and even statistically speaking, you have a higher chance of admission since fewer candidates apply. All of these and more add to the reasons behind why you must consider choosing your early decision college as soon as possible. 

The Application Numbers

Vying for a place at the top colleges will only get more competitive after the early round, as they will receive thousands of applications during the regular decision round. As a result, choosing an early decision college now is crucial to give yourself time to prepare a strong application.

If last year’s numbers are any indication, even the early round is more competitive than ever before. Due to the pandemic, early decision applications saw an all-time high at many schools, including Dartmouth, Columbia, and Yale. Columbia University received almost 6,500 applications while Yale received 7,939 applications and accepted only 837 candidates. 3,999 applicants were deferred while 2,997 students were denied. Meanwhile, Dartmouth’s ED applicant pool saw 2,664 applicants—29% higher than last year’s.  

Choosing an early decision or early action school as soon as possible means you can focus on that program entirely and give yourself a fair shot during such a competitive time in the college application landscapes. 

The Acceptance Rates Were Competitive

Higher application numbers means more competition. Due to the record-breaking application numbers, colleges also saw unprecedented acceptance rates. If you start choosing an early decision college on the earlier side, you’ll be able to consider these numbers and start thinking about where you might have a fair and realistic chance. 

Take a look at some of the 2020-2021 early action and early decision acceptance rates in comparison to the numbers from the 2019-2020 cycle.

School Early Round Acceptance Rate 2020-2021 Early Round Acceptance Rate 2019-2020
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.8% 7.4%
Harvard University 7.4% 13.9%
Yale University 10.5% 13.8%
University of Pennsylvania 15% 19.7%
Brown University 15.9% 17.5%
Rice University 16% 19%
Duke University 17% 21%
Johns Hopkins University 19% 28%
Dartmouth College 21.2% 25.5%
University of Virginia 33% 35%
Emory University 38.9% 40.2%

As you can see, the rate has gone down for every single top college in the table above. If you begin choosing an early decision college sooner rather than later, you’ll go in with an idea of what to expect. If you plan in October, for example, you might be thrown off by the fact that your ED or EA choice has a very low early acceptance rate and might not be sure how to approach the application.

You Have More Time to Prepare

Choosing an early decision college early means more time to understand the admitted student profile. If your SAT score, for example, doesn’t fall within the median of your dream school, if you know you want to apply in November closer to the summer, you’ll have more time to retake the standardized test and raise your score. This also means you have more time to dedicate yourself to really specializing in your field. Since the landscape has become so intensely competitive, you have to go all out and make an impact on your community and work collaboratively to impress admissions officers. If you want to apply ED to Brown for example, you know you have your work cut out for you more than ever. Use the summer to step out of your comfort zone and work hard. 

You Have Statistically Higher Chances - Take Advantage of It!

As I mentioned in the introduction, applying early means that even statistically your chances of admission improve. Schools use early action and early decision admission numbers as ways of estimating the yield of incoming classes. Since colleges know students applying early are likely or formally bound to commit, early applicants are more likely to get accepted. The early action and early decision rates are inflated by legacy students and recruited athletes. Keep in mind that the recruitment process for athletes is an entirely different one, as they are usually in touch with coaches who then relay the information to admissions officers.

It’s clear that schools are able to admit a greater percentage of students who apply in this round. But, you shouldn’t just send a half-polished application for hopes of an admissions boost. Most students who apply early typically have their act together. You will be competing against students confident in their grades, scores and extracurriculars. If you submit a mediocre application, chances are you will not fare very well. If you apply EA, and you’re a mediocre applicant, colleges won’t accept you knowing that you’re a mediocre applicant and that they can’t count on you for yield. Sometimes for ED, even if it's not in the best state, students rush to finish their application to their dream school to increase their chances and hoping for a miracle. This strategy isn’t a sound one. As a result, it’s extremely crucial that you start choosing your early decision college now!

If You’re Admitted, You’re Done Early

Applying early action and early decision to college not only increases your chances of acceptance, but if you’re accepted, you don’t have to submit regular decision applications! Of course, you should continue working on RD applications until you hear back to prepare for all outcomes. But once you’ve been notified, you’ll have a giant responsibility lifted off your shoulders. Plus, you’ll be able to save time and money. If that’s something that sounds appealing to you, consider choosing your early decision school and get started on the application sooner rather than later. 

There you have it—ultimately choosing your early decision college at this end of the calendar year means that you will have more time to work hard and know exactly what the school you’ve got in mind expects of you. You’ll have more time to retake tests and conduct research before writing supplemental essays. At the end of the day, it will benefit you and your application chances in this intense landscape. Good luck!

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