Early Decision: 10 Things You Need To Know About Applying

Last Updated Sep 8, 2011 10:14 AM EDT

Every year at this time high school seniors, who are eager to boost their college admission odds, start wondering if they should apply early decision to their favorite school.

If you're tempted to be one of the early birds, here are 10 things that you need to know about early decision:

1. It often is easier to get accepted to your dream school if you apply early decision. According to a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 70% of students who applied early decision were accepted during the 2009 admission season versus 55% for regular applications. Three years earlier the gap between ED and regular acceptances was only 8%.

2. Early decision practices are controversial because students are essentially applying blind. If selected during the early decision process, they are obligated to attend a school before they see a financial aid package. Obviously, this practice favors rich students.

3. What many families don't realize is that no college is going to force a student to attend if the financial aid package is not sufficient. Don't expect colleges to publicize this fact.

4. Before applying early decision, use a school's net price calculator to make sure the college will be a financial fit.

5. Sixty five percent of schools reported increases in the number of students they accept early decision while only 5% of schools reported a decrease.

6. Early decision has grown more popular as the rejection rates for highly selective colleges have continued to climb. For the past three admission cycles, ED applications have grown for about half of colleges offering the option.

7. Colleges benefit from early decision policies. The more students they can admit in the fall, the greater the chances that the school can hit its enrollment numbers.

8. You can only apply to one school through the early decision process because if you get in via this early bird method, you are obligated to attend. Make sure you really want to go to the school you single out for ED or it could be a long four years of college.

9. While you can only apply ED to one school, you are allowed to apply early action or regular decision at other institutions. If you gain admittance through ED, however, you must withdraw your other applications.

10. Roughly 18% of colleges and universities offer early decision applications, according to the NACAC survey. Twenty four percent of schools offer early action applications.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and the Shrinking the Cost of College workbook. She also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.

Read More on The College Solution:

Where Professors Send Their Children to College
25 Private Colleges With the Best Graduation Rates
25 Facts About Today's College Freshmen
Early decision image by See-Mee Ling. CC 2.0.

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