Early Decision II – Pros and Cons

Notifications for Early Decision (ED 1), Early Action (EA) and Restricted Early Action (REA) have been delivered. This year, as in previous years, there were many more tears than fist-bumps.

It has been a staggeringly competitive year thus far. A shout-out to Judi Robinovitz, from Score at the Top (www.scoreatthetop.com) for compiling all the following research numbers. Here is a list of colleges and universities across the country with the percentage of increase in EA, ED and REA applications from last year to this year:

  • MIT (EA) – 67%
  • Harvard (REA) – 57%
  • Columbia (ED) – 49%
  • Yale (REA) – 38%
  • Cornell (ED) – 37%
  • U Virginia (ED) – 36%
  • Virginia Tech (EA)- 35%
  • Dartmouth (ED) – 29%
  • U Georgia (EA) – 27%
  • U Pennsylvania (ED) – 23%
  • Hamilton (ED) – 23%
  • Brown (ED) – 22%
  • Georgetown (REA) – 19%
  • Duke (ED) – 18%
  • Tufts (ED1) – 17%
  • U California system – 15%
  • Northeastern (EA) – 14%
  • U Wisconsin (E) – 12%
  • Boston University (ED) – 12%
  • U Miami (ED I) – 12%
  • Tulane (Early) – 11%
  • Johns Hopkins (ED I) – 11%
  • Vanderbilt (ED I) – 8%
  • Emory (ED I) – 8%
  • Notre Dame (REA) – 6%
  • Northeastern (ED) – 5%

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 (ED II). Traditional ED programs have a November 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.

Benefits of ED II

ED II allows students more time to prepare their strongest application. This is a good time to review your list and think strategically. That may mean rewriting their Common Application essay or refining your supplemental prompts. 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 Advisor at College Confidential (www.collegeconfidential.com) “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, and 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 they play 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