College

Leveraging Early Decision to Apply to Top Colleges

Every college has application deadlines. You can only be admitted by submitting all necessary information through their application app (probably Common App).

There are different ways and times you can apply, though. One critical method available at top private schools is called Early Decision (ED). You can only apply to one school via Early Decision. If you are accepted, then you must attend. Only fourteen of the top 100 universities offer the option. Still, if one of them is your dream school, you should take the opportunity.

There is another option that five of the top universities (Harvard (1), Stanford (3), CalTech (6), Princeton (10), and Yale (11)) provide called Restrictive Early Action (REA). REA is similar to Early Decision in that you receive your decision early, and you can only apply to one school with REA or ED. You do not have to go if you are admitted to an REA school.

Why Choose Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action?

Acceptance rates.

If you want a school, and the school wants you, there’s no reason to deny admission. Below is a comparison of acceptance rates sorted by the most significant increase in early decision acceptance rates for applicants.

RkUniversityEDEDARAR+/-Inc
10Princeton UniversityREA15.5%4%12%3.9
48Brown UniversityED18.2%5%13%3.6
27Duke UniversityED21.6%6%16%3.6
20Northwestern UniversityED24.0%7%17%3.4
37Washington University in St. LouisED34.0%11%23%3.1
12University of PennsylvaniaED15.6%6%10%2.6
7Columbia UniversityED10.3%4%6%2.6
13Johns Hopkins UniversityED20.0%8%12%2.5
69Vanderbilt UniversityED15.7%7%9%2.2
1Harvard UniversityREA8.7%4%5%2.2
9University of ChicagoED12.5%6%7%2.1
79Emory UniversityED31.0%16%15%1.9
72Boston UniversityED34.1%18%16%1.9
11Yale UniversityREA9.0%5%4%1.8
24New York UniversityED27.8%17%11%1.6
17Cornell UniversityED19.0%12%7%1.6
44Carnegie Mellon UniversityED18.8%17%2%1.1
3Stanford UniversityREA3.7%4%0%0.9
6California Institute of TechnologyREA3.0%4%-1%0.8

Only three schools see minimal or negative changes with early admission. The majority of institutions see rates double or triple.

If you do not want to bind yourself to a school, apply to Princeton’s restrictive early admission. This will see your admission chances almost quadruple.

However, you do need to be sure of your financial aid situation. You must be ready to pay the bill if you receive an early decision. Applying to WashU is very tempting if you qualify for the WashU pledge. As over a third of applicants who apply early decision are admitted.

But how early is early admission? What significant dates do you need to be concerned about? We’ll look at that next.

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