IMAGE: When applying under early decision, consider keeping track of requirements and deadlines with a checklist.
By Clara Ault,
For seniors, applying to and hearing back from colleges can be the most stressful part of the year. Early decision can help students who are sure of where they want to feel more relaxed during their final year of high school.
In early decision, a student applies to college early and commits to going there if they get in. Students apply by Nov. 1 and hear back mid to late December. Davis High alumna Molly Burke applied to Northwestern under early decision last fall because she knew it was the school for her.
“I realized [Northwestern] was my absolute number one choice and early decision could only help me,” Burke said.
For her, applying early decision was an easy choice because she knew where she wanted to go to college. Others looking into early decision should be sure that where they are committing to go is indeed where they want to go.
“I think that anyone considering early decision should be sure that it is their number one choice. They definitely shouldn’t do it for a school where they couldn’t picture themselves,” Burke said.
Head counselor Catherine Pereira says only students who have extensively researched and have a clear idea of what they want should consider applying for early decision; it shouldn’t be a last minute decision.
“For seniors if you’re thinking about doing early decision, you don’t want to be like, ‘oh I’m applying early I better rush this essay out.’ You want to be thoughtful about it and have spent time dedicated to working on your essays and your applications and have your recommendations all set up and everything,” Pereira said.
She always asks students if they know what they are getting themselves into.
“I always ask students when they’re gonna apply to early decision, if they’ve done their research on it, if they’re absolutely sure they want to go there. And most, say 90 percent, say yes, that’s where they want to be,” Pereira said.
Senior Katie Borowsky didn’t apply for early decision because she didn’t feel prepared.
“I did not apply early decision because I don’t know where I want to go,” Borowsky said.
One of the drawbacks that many families have to consider when deciding whether or not early decision is right for them is that students can’t compare financial aid packages. This was Burke’s primary concern.
“My main hesitation was concern with how much financial aid I would receive. I heard that early decision was binding, but learned from Mrs. Wilkerson that there was actually a way to back out if there were true financial barriers,” Burke said.
Early decision can help students improve their chances of getting into a specific college, where something like early action might actually make it harder for students to get in.
“Early action might be harder to get into, like, Stanford because they’ll allow so many people in, but they want to see what the regular pool looks like, so they’re not gonna let everybody just come in off of early. So doing regular decision might be better for some students,” Pereira said.
Colleges may be more inclined to accept students who apply under early decision because it’s less of a risk for them when they admit that student.
“They know if they admit you you’re going to go to that school. Whereas if you apply regular or early action they don’t know if you’re gonna get to that school because you’re also applying to maybe 10 other colleges,” Pereira said.
Burke has had no second thoughts about her decision to apply under early decision.
“I didn’t have any regrets because I love Northwestern and am so glad to be here,” she said.