-By, Abby Weyer
As Winsor seniors are all too aware of, the early deadlines for most college applications has just passed. There are several options to apply to college early including “early action,” and “restrictive early action” that all give high school seniors a chance to submit their application early fall to receive an admissions decision right before the holidays. Applying “regular decision” would land you a acceptance/denial letter much later in the spring. Probably the most well-known deadline, however, is “early decision.” For ED applicants, instead of applying to multiple colleges at once, you dedicate your application to one school and, if you get in, are obligated to go there. Other than the chance to be done with the stress surrounding college applications earlier in the year, early decision poses other benefits. The heavy load of submission fees is greatly lessened if you are able to attend your early college and do not have to submit to more schools. In addition, it is an easy way to tell your college of choice that you are very interested and will definitely attend if you get in.
However, early decision has also reflected the growing competition in college admissions within the past decade. As most things related to the college process, it is a victim of colleges’ attempts to raise their appeal. Most colleges will advertise to apply early if you are “ready” to do so by mid-fall and are sure you want to go to the school. Even better, most schools boast higher acceptance rates for those who apply early decision compared to those who apply regular. As Lee Stetson, dean of admissions for University of Pennsylvania put it, “Everybody likes to be loved, and we’re no exception. Everybody likes to see a sign of commitment, and it helps in the selection process.” The statistics reflect Stetson’s words: for U Penn’s Class of 2020, only 9% of applicants were admitted regular while 23.2% were admitted early. When you dedicate your application to one school, colleges are impressed to see “commitment” and it is a greater incentive to accept. But are the other motivations at hand? One can easily deduce that if a college accepts most of it’s class early, people who are obligated to come, their matriculation rates will be quite impressive. Instead of, let’s say, 50% of the admitted class deciding to enroll in the college, 80% of the admitted class enrolls because 30% had to under early decision. In addition, if a college accepts many people early, they of course can reject more people in the regular applicant pool, forcing down their “regular acceptance rate.” These strategies are at work: for the Class of 2015, schools like Lehigh, Hamilton, and Colby admitted close to 50% of their class early decision. Elizabeth K. ’17 comments, “it is discouraging to think that those who apply regular for whatever reason are put to a disadvantage because of college’s incentives to admit a huge number of early candidates.” The sad reality is that, in an age in which college prestige is often based off an acceptance rate, better statistics help colleges succeed in a competitive college climate. For so many, numbers are all that seem to matter within the college process, and this unfortunate idea drives schools ulterior motives when advertising options like early decision.
Some people may be asking, “why don’t people just apply early to get the advantage?” Although the deadline is only two months before regular deadline, many high school students are not ready come the early November deadline. Being ready assumes that you have completed and are satisfied with an SAT or ACT score before the fall, which many students are not. In addition, a lot of high schools do not communicate to their students to begin the application process until senior year starts in September, leaving only two months to get everything together. At Winsor, we are lucky to have a college counseling program that informs us and prepares us well during Junior year so as to get a head-start on the college application process. Therefore, we are exempt from a lot of disadvantages other high school students face. However, there are still existing pressures of deciding to commit to a school so early within the year and being academically prepared for the application process by midterms. Helen S. ’17 comments, “After all, the early decision is called what it is because it is early. Colleges seem to assume that early deadlines have become the new “regular.”. For other students who do not get the same advantages we do, the concept of early decision could be bringing more harm than good.