Three Considerations before applying Early Decision

Early decision (ED) has often been a polarizing option for high school seniors navigating the college application process. While some see it as a strategic move to enhance their chances of securing admission to their dream school, others view it as a means of alleviating the stress of senior year and bringing a sense of certainty to their final days of high school. While ED can indeed be a viable option for certain individuals, it is imperative to carefully consider several factors before committing to this binding application process.

1) Financial Considerations

One of the most critical factors to weigh before applying ED is your financial situation. If you cannot afford to pay full tuition at a particular institution, it is advisable to refrain from applying ED. It’s important to remember that ED is a binding agreement, and once you are accepted, you are committed to attending that school regardless of the financial aid package offered. Since financial aid details are typically not provided until after the ED acceptance, assuming that you will receive sufficient merit aid can be risky and may lead to undesirable outcomes. Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly assess your financial readiness before pursuing an ED application.

2) Understanding Early Decision Admissions

Admissions rates for Early Decision (ED) applicants are often touted as being higher, but it’s essential to maintain perspective on these statistics. While prestigious institutions do aim to secure top-tier candidates during the ED phase, they’re unlikely to compromise on their standards. In other words, they won’t extend offers to applicants whose credentials fall below their typical range. Despite concerns about a significant portion of the freshman class being filled post-ED, it’s crucial not to let this fear dictate your decision-making process. Even if a selective liberal arts college admits 500 students out of a class of 1000 through ED, it doesn’t mean they only have 500 spots remaining. Colleges must consider yield concerns and may issue more acceptances than necessary, potentially offering 1500 acceptances to fill the final 500 spots.

3) Assessing Your Commitment

Undoubtedly, the most crucial question to ask yourself is, “Am I completely certain about attending this school?” Senior year is a period of considerable personal development and transformation. What appears to be a firm decision in the fall might lose its appeal six months later. An influential AP English teacher could sway a student away from a previously determined engineering path. The essence of navigating the admissions process lies in self-awareness. Are you someone whose academic and career aspirations remain steadfast over time, or do your interests evolve with each new experience? Understanding yourself is pivotal in making an informed decision.


The decision to apply early decision (ED) to a college is not one to be taken lightly. It requires careful consideration of various factors, including financial implications, admissions rates, and personal commitment. While ED can offer certain advantages, such as higher acceptance rates, it also comes with binding commitments and potential limitations. It’s essential for students to thoroughly evaluate their options, consider their long-term goals, and reflect on their ability to commit to a particular institution before finalizing their application. By weighing these factors thoughtfully, students can make a well-informed decision that aligns with their academic and personal aspirations.