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):