Early Decision I is done; now it’s time for Early Decision II

Notifications for Early Decision and Single Choice Early Action have been delivered.


Notifications for Early Decision (ED) and Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) have been delivered.

Applying ED is a binding commitment; if you are accepted, you must withdraw all other applications and attend that college. SCEA is not binding, students have until May 1 to make their decisions. This year, as in previous years, there were many more tears than fist-bumps.

Many schools with an Early Action program, which is non-binding – and used at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State – will send out their notifications by the end of January.

Here are some of the staggeringly competitive numbers for Early Decision I and Single Choice Early Action:

Duke received a record number of 4,090 Early Decision applicants, a 16 percent increase over last year. They accepted 875 high school seniors into the Class of 2022. With this increase in applications, the Early Decision acceptance rate decreased to 21 percent, making this year’s Early Decision process the most selective in Duke’s history. Students admitted through Early Decision will make up 51 percent of the Class of 2022.

MIT received Early Action applications from 9,557 students and offered early admission to 664, just 7 percent. MIT deferred 6,210 applicants. These students will be reconsidered without prejudice in Regular Action.

Just down the road from MIT, Harvard had more than twice the acceptance rate for its Single Choice Early Action program: 6,630 students applied, 964 received a congratulations letter for a 15 percent acceptance rate Last year, 938 of 6,473 applicants were admitted.

Students who were rejected or deferred now find themselves in phase two of their application process. Many will examine their lists more closely to reevaluate their thoughts on which schools are “reach,” “target” and “safeties.”

There is a relatively new wrinkle in college admissions is an admissions program called Early Decision II. Traditional ED programs have a Nov. 1 deadline and a December notification. ED II deadlines are typically January 1 with notification by mid-February. This extra time allows students who were deferred or rejected from their first-choice school to apply with a binding decision and perhaps a boosted opportunity to another college.

According to my latest research, roughly 80 colleges and universities offer ED II including: Emory University (www.emory.edu); Boston University (www.bu.edu); Tufts University (www.tufts.edu); Davidson College (www.davidson.edu); and Vanderbilt (www.vanderbilt.edu). You can check out the complete list on my website: www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.

Benefits of ED II

ED II allows students more time to prepare their strongest application. That may mean rewriting their Common Application essay or refining their supplemental prompts, or it may mean another chance to take the standardized tests.

ED II also gives students with strong performance in their first semester senior year another quarter or semester of grades to share with colleges.

According to Sally Rubenstone, senior adviser at College Confidential, “Applying Early Decision does give students a bit of an admissions-odds boost at most colleges. Admission folks are usually willing to lock in strong-but-not-spectacular candidates whom they know will show up in September.”

Why do colleges offer an ED II program option?

Colleges really like Early Decision I and Early Decision II because accepted students are committed to attend. That increases their yield numbers, and the yield number impacts their rankings.

Additionally, it helps the admissions office shape the class by allowing them to be pickier with the regular decision applicants. As an example, if a student’s big advantage is that she plays the oboe and that was a hole the admissions office filled with an ED I or II applicant, it will be more challenging for that student to be accepted in regular decision.

Potential Disadvantages

Rubenstone also shares that “there can be some financial disadvantages to applying ED in any round because an affirmative decision will eliminate your chance to compare multiple aid packages. But, on the other hand, if an ED school does not offer reasonable aid then it’s okay to wheedle out of the so-called “binding” commitment.”


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