The New Early Decision: Plan for a Changing Landscape

Early Decision numbers break records again.

As several recent news stories have announced, 2018 has been yet another record-breaking year for early decision college applications, with many schools seeing their early application numbers increase by twenty percent or more. And this trend is likely to continue. It’s time to acknowledge that the landscape has shifted: Early Decision simply isn’t what it used to be. 

So…What does this mean for you when applying to college?

First and foremost, it means that you should start considering your goals for college earlier, and build a college list not just with breadth—including a range of reach and likely schools—but also with depth. A list has depth when every school on it offers exciting opportunities and strengths that match up with your goals. In other words, the “safer” schools are as thoughtfully chosen as the reaches.

Have a top choice school? Thinking about applying early? By all means, do it! But keep in mind that, these days, your risk of not getting in early is higher. And, with more and more strong applicants being deferred or denied in the early round, regular decision pools will be more and more competitive, too. The bottom line: it is more important than ever to make informed choices about the other schools on your list.

This takes time. 

Whatever your interests, it is fairly easy to identify highly selective schools with great programs. But there are many more incredible opportunities out there! Go online, read college search resources, talk to a college counselor, contact friends currently in college, and talk to anyone you know who works in fields that relate to your areas of interest—putting in the time for thorough research will help you build a list with many options that could make you genuinely happy.  

If college visits are on your agenda for junior year, this advance research will also help you make the most of your trips. Plan to see different types of schools, with a range of admit rates. The goal is to be happy imagining yourself at each school on your list, and often this begins with seeing them in person; you might be surprised by what you find!

The upshot: all of this research and thought will not only help you find the right schools for you, it will also prepare you to write a more compelling application. The more time you’ve put into learning about a school, the more convincing you’ll be when you explain why you want to go there. The more you’ve reflected on your academic interests and goals, the more you’ll be able to express in your essays.  

Yes, the Early Decision landscape has changed. But one thing will always be true about college admissions: the more time and energy you put into the process, the more the process works for you.

If you would like additional advice on the Early Decision process, contact us.

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