Official Partner of College Essay Advisors
Parent of a high school sophomore or junior? There are two things you should do today to help your child begin the college search
Should your child apply Early Decision?
Written by Jack Delehey on July 08th, 2022
Previously written on 10/16/2020
This time of year I get a lot of questions from high school seniors and parents about Early Decision. Applying ED has become the norm, particularly when applying to top-30 uber-competitive universities.

The crazy thing is, ED hasn't even been around forever. Once upon a time, there was only one application pool: Regular Decision. In fact, it wasn't even really referred to as 'regular decision', since it was quite literally, the "only decision" pool.

Then in the late 1950's, a bunch of small New England colleges (Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Williams) decided to band together under an overly-elite sounding name ("the Pentagonals") as the first five colleges in the country to offer this thing called "Early Decision."

If you are reading this, you likely have an idea what this is by now: in essence, these five schools provided slightly easier admissions odds in exchange for a binding admission commitment. It allowed admissions reps to have a guaranteed student-body before the regular round of applications and, on the applicants’ side, if they truly had a #1 choice, it gave them slightly better odds of admission.

How this affects you
If you have an about-to-be high school senior, this really affects you. Most ED due dates are either 11/1 or 11/15, which means it's right around the corner. If you have an about-to-be high school junior, this also really affects you. As you work through the complicated college admissions landscape (only made more complicated with a global pandemic), you should keep in mind that, these days, there are multiple admissions rounds.

A rule to follow when deciding to ED or not to ED (assuming, for these purposes, financial aid is not a driving factor):
  • If your child has a clear #1 choice and that school offers ED, your child should absolutely apply in the Early Decision pool--There is no excuse here. ED offers your child a greater chance of acceptance. Your child has a #1 choice school and, if she wants the best chance of going to that #1 school, she should apply ED where she will have a lower admissions bar.
  • 2022 Update: Don’t believe ED is really beneficial? Think again. Check out my alma mater, Vanderbilt’s class of 2025 ED vs RD acceptance rate statistics…If you applied ED you had more than a 5x chance of getting accepted!
  • If your child does not have a clear #1, your child should absolutely not apply in the Early Decision pool – this rule may be even more important. Every year I have those over-achieving students that know ED provides a better chance of admission so they don't want to leave their one ED chance on the table. However, if you do not have a clear #1 school, do not send a binding admissions agreement out into the world. It's not worth it. You don't have a #1 and that's ok. Keep your options open. Apply EA (non-binding) and RD. Yes, your chances will be slightly lower, but you'll thank yourself when, in early April, you have several schools to choose from and get to take your pick.
If you have an about-to-be high school junior and haven't started the college search process, I recommend you start now. Particularly this year, starting the college search process in the fall of junior year is paramount to give proper time to explore schools, come up with an appropriately-balanced list, and eventually apply (perhaps one application in the ED pool).

Do you need help navigating the college search process (or know someone who does)? Click here to see if and how I can help (or pass the link along to your fellow parent that might be able to use it)!

Happy college-searching,

Jack Delehey

Jack Delehey (Vanderbilt '14) is a college admissions expert originally from Concord, MA and now resides in Denver, CO. It is his goal to pass on his college admission knowledge, strategies, and unique perspective to high school students in a young, fun, relatable, older-brother type manner.

The college application process is often confusing and stressful. But it just doesn't have to be that way! If you are interested in gaining clarity, peace of mind, and a detailed step-by-step program to help your child through the college application process, reach out and request a free strategy session today.
FB Comments Will Be Here (placeholder)
©2021 Delehey College Consulting