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Is early decision only for rich kids?


EKT
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Please forgive my ignorance if this is a stupid question. (My oldest is in 8th and I'm just dipping my toes into anything college-related!) My understanding is that the chance of admission to a particular school is higher if you apply early decision. But...if you're a student who will definitely need financial aid, how can you commit to attending before you know anything about the money you may or may not receive? 

In other words: Can you only apply to a school early decision if your family can definitely pay the full sticker price for that school? Thanks for any insight!

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I think it can also work if you are very low income and the school meets need. (With the caveat that schools define “meets need” differently). I do think if you are very low income and are confident that a school is good with need based aid it can be an option. I also think you are able to back out if the money really doesn’t work out. 
 

We have never done it as my kids have not been drawn to the more competitive schools but my feeling is that it is good for full pay folks and for low income but a tough thing for those in the middle who really need to compare offers. 
 

Like I said, we haven’t done it so take my opinion for what it is worth. But that is my take on it.

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ED is IMO for those with lots of $ in the bank, or, at the other extreme, as previously mentioned, those with very little income.

Many schools do not offer ED but have EA. My DD applied to the university she is attending EA.

 

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The other problem with ED if you need to make decisions based on finances is that you have to withdraw all other applications if you are accepted ED.  That means that the student really can't compare financial packages, participate in competitive scholarships, etc.  Definitely a HUGE drawback bc students who are competitive enough to be accepted to a competitive school are competitive enough for $$ merit at other schools.

 

 

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Full disclosure: My son was just accepted to his dream school early decision.  His school does not release detailed statistics about the early decision acceptances.

However, keep in mind that at many schools, the ED admissions numbers also include legacy students and student athletes.  If you factor out these students at some schools, the ED bump doesn’t appear to be much of a bump at all.  

As to your original question, there are escape clauses to ED if students cannot make the finances add up.  

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My son was going to apply ED but did EA instead. I'm so glad because his FA package sucked there. He pays much less where he is now. That school was prefect but not when the other school came out to 20k less a year. Same ranking in school type. His dream school was a public small LAC. He ended up at a large state school.

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There is a definite advantage to applying ED for both the school and the student. It is a serious commitment from the student and there is a higher chance of admittance. Universities make it very clear that ED decisions are binding and that finances ought to be worked out in advance. There are exceptions, of course, but that’s the commitment the student is making to the school if they choose to apply ED. All other offers must be rescinded as soon as the student receives ED acceptance.

EA (early acceptance) is similar but non binding. The advantages to applying early include knowing sooner, higher chance of acceptance, and the opportunity to continue to apply to other schools. If an EA applicant is deferred, they have time to strengthen their status while waiting for RD decisions.

EA and ED make up a significant percentage of acceptances at competitive schools. The applicant pool tends to be smaller which works in the students favor, though I’ve been reading that this year has seen increases of 30% or more. 

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1 hour ago, MEmama said:

EA (early acceptance) is similar but non binding. The advantages to applying early include knowing sooner, higher chance of acceptance, and the opportunity to continue to apply to other schools. If an EA applicant is deferred, they have time to strengthen their status while waiting for RD decisions. 

The problem with EA is that the number of schools with an EA option is significantly less than those with ED options. Of the 20-some schools my 3 DC have applied to, none had EA options though a couple required an early application for scholarship consideration.  

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2 hours ago, Arch at Home said:

The problem with EA is that the number of schools with an EA option is significantly less than those with ED options. Of the 20-some schools my 3 DC have applied to, none had EA options though a couple required an early application for scholarship consideration.  

Interesting! All but one US school that DS applied offered EA, and even that one he heard back from in the same timeframe (he applied in October along with all his other apps just to be finished). I guess one other simply did rolling admissions. Most offered ED as well but not all.

Applying ED or EA is very common in our area.

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5 hours ago, Arch at Home said:

The problem with EA is that the number of schools with an EA option is significantly less than those with ED options. Of the 20-some schools my 3 DC have applied to, none had EA options though a couple required an early application for scholarship consideration.  

We found EA options to be fairly common, and often necessary for scholarship consideration. 

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12 minutes ago, EKT said:

This is all super helpful information! Thank you!

It’s an exciting process, but has a huge learning curve. The game has changed entirely in 30 years. Lol

A couple sites we’ve found very helpful have been college confidential and A2C (Applying 2 College) on reddit. Couldn’t have gotten through without them. You’re wise to get an early start! 🙂 

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Dd applied EA to all schools. Best scholarship consideration and better chance of acceptance. Also, because she is a dance major, some schools required her to apply EA to be considered for the major. 
 

October and November were pretty rough around here trying to get regular applications, dance program applications, and video auditions completed by those EA deadlines.

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18 minutes ago, lovelearnandlive said:

Dd applied EA to all schools. Best scholarship consideration and better chance of acceptance. Also, because she is a dance major, some schools required her to apply EA to be considered for the major. 
 

October and November were pretty rough around here trying to get regular applications, dance program applications, and video auditions completed by those EA deadlines.

Yes, DS was being recruited by a few coaches for running who requested he apply EA or ED as well. I think that’s common for athletes since coaches need to get an idea of how their teams will look. 

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My son opted not to apply ED, primarily but not exclusively because we wanted to be able to compare financial aid packages. He applied mostly to needs-met schools, and there ended up being something like a $10,000-15,000/year spread in OOP cost between the best and worst packages, so I think it was the right decision. If he had had one absolute dream school, though, we might have let him go for it. We have some particular slightly unusual financial stuff that probably contributed to the disparity in the FA offers, but it's not really rare to have SOMETHING in your financial life that makes financial aid difficult to predict even at needs met schools, and even in the age of net price calculators. I have a friend whose first child applied ED to a needs met school and got a good FA package, so she was confident in letting her second also go the ED route at a different needs met school, only to be stunned by a much less generous FA package there. She is divorced, self-employed, and has a lot of home equity--all things that can make FA really tough to predict. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

My dd applied ED to the school she is currently attending. We are not rich and my dd's school is $70,000 a year. We are paying about $10,000. We were able to apply ED because when we ran the NPC on her school's website, we knew we could afford the number it gave us. That is the key. If you can afford the NPC number from the school, you can apply ED. If the school was to offer you substantially less aid than the number on their NPC or something changed with your finances, you can turn down their offer.

My dd had gotten some offers through EA prior to receiving her acceptance from the school she is at now. She could have withdrawn her ED application before they accepted her if she had decided she wanted to attend one of the EA schools she had received an acceptance from instead. 

 

 

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