Should You Apply Early Decision?

In pretty much any setting where a high school senior interacts with an adult for more than five seconds, she will likely receive a bombardment of college questions. Where are you looking at ? What’s your favorite school? What do you want to major in?

As the college search process comes to an end, and some students already know where they will attend, there is one recurring college question that’s difficult to tune out: Where will you attend?

However, “undecided” is still the answer for many students, who won’t discover their hopeful options until late March or early April.

Still, out of the 36 seniors here, 13 students applied early decision. Nine students were accepted, three were deferred and one was denied. Early decision is a binding agreement, and successful applicants are required to withdraw all other applications. If the early decision applicant is deferred, he is reconsidered as part of the regular decision process.

Director of College Counseling Cindy Pendergast describes the intensity of the decision. “You are actually signing a pledge. Students have to sign it, parents and guardians have to sign it, and you need to do research,” she says. “Only apply early if you have done all of your research and have absolutely decided that this is the college for you.”

For Chardon Brooks ’15, a soccer recruit, applying early decision to Bates College was a no-brainer. “The coach contacted me and I decided to look at the school,” Brooks says. “I remember falling in love with Bates instantly—the inclusive atmosphere, the high-caliber of academic work, the athletic intensity. The students there were multidimensional and interesting. I was positive this was the community I wanted to join next fall.”

Brooks’s chance of acceptance also increased by applying early decision. In 2013, Bates had an acceptance rate of 25.4%, with 48.8% enrolled through early decision.

However, some students here are not as comfortable about a binding college application. At first, AJ Naddaff ’15 wanted to apply early to Davidson College in North Carolina, where his cousin also attends. But Naddaff then considered financial aid, and whether if accepted to his top-choice, he would receive enough to allow him to graduate without “waking up at age 40 with more college loans to pay off.”

When applying to college, Naddaff suggests matching the best fit with financial stability. “Just because the school yields the lowest acceptance rate, or has the best reputation on your application list, doesn’t mean it is where you will be happy,” he says.

Other students feel similarly.  “I’m very indecisive, so I didn’t want to lock myself into one school,” says Genevieve Lefevre ’15. “I want options.”

So, what’s the lesson here? As a New York Times article puts it, “If you find yourself comparing every school on your wish list to that one school you love, you have found a first choice.”

Still, remember to investigate financial aid and scholarships, and reach out to the college counseling. And if you are someone who changes your mind a lot, no matter how badly you want to attend your dream school, applying early decision is probably not your most prudent option.

By Elizabeth Leeder ’15

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