College Planning – Early Action vs Early Decision
Early decision is for kids who absolutely positively know where they want to go. It’s when you apply to a college, and if they accept you, they will notify you by a specific date. You get your answer ahead of the regular applicants, and the decision is going to be binding. That means if they accept you, you have to go to that college.
Early action is similar in that you will be notified of your acceptance earlier than everybody else, but if you are accepted, it is not binding, so you can still go to any school you want to.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of early decision, because that is the most controversial choice. Not all schools offer early decision. In fact some well-known schools such as Yale and the University of Virginia don’t have early decision, because they believe it is unfair.
Let’s begin with the pros. A handful of schools select up to a third or more of their incoming class via early decision, so you may increase your chances of getting into those schools. But as I said, it’s a small number of schools, and you better be absolutely sure you want to go there.
Now let’s consider some of the drawbacks of early decision. For one, it is binding. You are locked in, that is where you are going to go to school. It also limits your financial options because you have to take the financial aid award given. Often, you get less money because of this. Just imagine you are going buying a new car. You walk into the showroom and you say to the salesman, “I want that one, I don’t care how much it cost.” Do you think the salesman is going to give you the best price? So it is with early decision; you don’t always get the opportunity to get the best deal.
Finally, you are also asking a 17-year-old kid to make a decision that has no fallback position. That is a huge risk, because between the beginning and end of that high school senior year, most kids change tremendously. So the college that seemed perfect in the fall may no longer be for them. So when you are thinking about early decision, you better be sure you really want to go to that school, and also that money is not your chief consideration.