Are you a high school senior gearing up for the college application process? If so, you've likely heard about Early Decision (ED) as a potential pathway to your dream school. It is critical that students and parents understand what options they have and create a strategy when it comes to those options. In recent years, we have seen an uptick in the number of Early Decision applications and acceptances, and data will show that it is a clear advantage to apply ED. However, it's essential to understand what applying ED means, the commitment you are making, and the differences between the ED options: Early Decision 1 (ED1) and Early Decision 2 (ED2). We will explore the options, benefits, and challenges associated with each to help you make an informed decision.
ED is a college application process that allows students to apply to their preferred institution early, typically by November 1st or 15th. If admitted under ED, students are bound to attend that college and must withdraw all other college applications. Because of this bound contract, students can only apply to one ED1 school.
Early Decision 1 (ED1) Benefits:
1. Increased Acceptance Rates: Many colleges admit a higher percentage of their incoming class through ED1 than through the regular decision process. This can be a strategic advantage. Some ED1 acceptance rates have admitted percentages twice as high as regular decision applications. The reason is because the school knows if the student is accepted, they have to attend, filling a spot in the upcoming class. There is no contract with RD, and students can choose among all the schools they were accepted to. It’s a numbers game!
2. Quick Admission Decision: ED1 applicants usually receive admission decisions in mid-December. This means you'll know your college fate before the holidays, allowing you to plan accordingly. All colleges will notify applicants of ED1 decisions by December 18th.
3. Demonstrated Interest: Applying ED1 signals to colleges that they are your top choice, which can positively influence their decision.
Early Decision 1 (ED1) Challenges:
1. Binding Commitment: The most significant drawback of ED1 is that it's binding. If you are admitted, you must attend that college, regardless of financial aid considerations. The only exception is if the school fails to meet the student's financial needs based on either the institutional or federal methodology (CSS Profile / FAFSA).
2. Limited Time for Improvement: You'll have less time to enhance your application if you apply ED1. If your senior year grades or standardized test scores improve significantly, you won't be able to factor them into your college choice.
So, where does ED2 come into play?
Picture this - you've poured your heart and soul into that early application, but the December notification wasn't the acceptance letter you hoped for. Instead, you might've been deferred or declined from your Early Decision 1 (ED1) choice. That's where ED2 comes into play. It's your opportunity for a fresh start and a new shot at securing a spot in your second-choice dream college. The ED2 deadline usually falls around January 1st.
Early Decision 2 (ED2) Benefits
1. Second Chance, Renewed Commitment: ED2 allows you to bounce back from an ED1 disappointment. It's a way to demonstrate your unwavering commitment to another top-choice college. You're telling them, "You're my new number one."
2. Increased Acceptance Rate: Like ED1, ED2 typically has a higher acceptance rate than RD and EA. Although schools realize they are second choice, they still know that you will attend their school and fill a seat due to the binding contract.
Early Decision 2 (ED2) Benefits
1. The Waiting Game: With ED2, you'll need some patience. You won't hear back until February or March, which can feel like an eternity when all you want to do is secure your college plans.
2. A Binding Commitment: It's crucial to remember that, just like ED1, ED2 is a binding commitment. If you're admitted, you must make your way to that college, no matter what. Financial aid considerations may come into play, but the commitment remains firm. The only exception is if the college/university fails to meet financial needs based on either the institutional or federal methodology (CSS Profile / FAFSA).
3. The Application Switch: If you originally applied Regular Decision (RD) and were declined or deferred from your ED1 choice, you'll have to change your application type to ED2 formally. The college requires this change and involves navigating their specific process. It might mean toggling within the college portal or emailing your admissions representative. Being aware of the December notification date for ED1, students should have all their ducks in a row to change from RD to ED2. This is especially important when considering the holiday break and school counselors possibly being unavailable to sign the contract they must sign for all their ED1 and ED2 students. Make sure to discuss with your counselor if this is a situation you could be in and make arrangements ahead of time.
In the world of college applications, ED2 is your comeback kid. It's your chance to rise above any initial disappointment, showcase your dedication, and hopefully secure a place in a college that aligns with your aspirations.
Remember, this decision is personal, and it's about finding the best fit for your academic and personal journey while also being responsible with the financial commitment. If you cannot afford the school and are relying on need and merit-based aid, there may be better options than ED1 and ED2. Research each college's specific policies, evaluate your financial situation, and consult with trusted advisors as you navigate the exciting yet challenging world of college applications.