Early application options abound, but some can narrow your college choices

Carolina College Bound file photo

It would be easy to assume that with the increase in the popularity of online applications – www.commonapp.orgwww.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org and www.universalcollegeapp.com – a variety of decisions would be streamlined for college applicants. Unfortunately, that is just not the case.

Colleges appreciate the benefits of the common applications, but many of them want to differentiate themselves, and that’s where the variety of application deadlines play a critical role.

The college application process is full of acronyms, but none seem more confusing than those associated with application deadlines: EA (Early Action), ED (Early Decision), ED 2 (Early Decision second deadline), SCEA (Single Choice Early Action), REA (Restricted Early Action) and Rolling Admissions.

Here is information about Early Action and Early Decision options:

Early Action (EA)

Early Action is a great gift for the well-prepared student. Students must submit their complete application by an earlier deadline, typically Nov. 1, but many colleges in the southeast, including University of North Carolina Chapel HillNorth Carolina State UniversityUniversity of South CarolinaUniversity of Georgia and Georgia Tech, all have an even earlier deadline of Oct. 15.

The big perk here is that students receive notification of their acceptance, rejection or deferral much earlier, with some in December but some not until the end of January.

The best benefit is that EA is not binding, so students may apply to multiple schools EA and can even apply to one school Early Decision (ED), which is binding. Students who apply EA and are accepted are not required to notify the college of their decision until May 1.

Early Decision (ED) and Early Decision 2 (ED 2)

ED is straight-forward. You apply early – typically a Nov. 1 deadline, and you’re notified early – typically by Dec. 24. If you’re accepted, it’s binding – you must go. Since it is binding, you are allowed to apply to only one college ED.

Now, a small number of colleges have added an ED 2, with a January deadline. Colleges love students who apply ED. It allows them to have a better grasp of their numbers and how many students they’ll need to accept in regular decision. Many colleges have a surprising bump in their ED acceptance rates compared with regular decision. This admissions boost is tracked by colleges and published on www.collegedata.com.

ED 2 is frequently used by students who applied ED elsewhere and were either rejected or deferred. ED2 is relatively new, and as of now there is not significant history to determine how much, if any, boost there is over a regular admission application.

According to the 2018 Princeton Review – The Best 382 Colleges,” Duke University, more than doubles its regular acceptance rate from 12 percent to 27 percent for ED. The University of Pennsylvania, an ivy league school, jumps from 10 percent to 24 percent, and Elon University, accepts an astounding 88 percent ED, compared with a 60 percent acceptance rate for regular decision.

There are trade-offs with Early Decision. Yes, the numbers can be very appealing, but families need to understand that the applicant pool for ED is typically stronger. Early Decision applicants are frequently athletes, legacy students, development cases (where the family has donated a lot of money), etc.

Since the Early Decision decision is binding, once students are accepted ED, they are asked to withdraw their applications from all other schools where they applied. Applying Early Decision eliminates any possibility for a family to compare financial aid offers or to even find out about need-based or merit-based aid at other schools.

Early decision a big decision.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.comwww.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com