Creating a College List
September 6, 2012
The Great Question Issue
October 12, 2012

Early Decision

Penn Admissions is on the road.  After spending a summer together in College Hall, our admissions officers are meeting prospective students in their hometowns across the world.  I hope you share our excitement as we begin the 2012-2013 academic year and admissions cycle.

Today, let’s discuss early decision, a path many high school seniors are considering.  Early decision is a binding agreement: students who are accepted through this process agree to matriculate the following fall.  Due to the nature of this agreement, it’s important to think about this decision before sending in an early application.  Let’s consider when applying early is the right path.

A) After doing thorough online research and visiting various college campuses, you realize that you are most intrigued by the academic opportunities and student life of one particular school.
B)  Your interest in a specific discipline (i.e. marine biology, anthropology, art history) is best supported by a certain school.
C) Throughout high school, you felt connected to one particular school.  This connection is substantiated by strong reasons, ranging from community and academics to research opportunities and location.

For those students who can realistically see themselves at a specific university, applying early is a way to articulate enthusiasm and fit.  Yet, as much as early decision is an opportunity, it is also a commitment that students must be prepared to make.

Seniors should review the middle 50 percent of enrolled students’ scores at the schools they are considering (this information is often available online) to ensure that their own credentials are realistic and competitive.

Additionally, early decision is not the right path for students whose applications are incomplete or do not reflect their best work.  In this case, I strongly recommend continued work on the application and final submission in time for the regular decision deadline.

Finally, know that college admission is not a race to the finish.  Some students may experience external pressures to apply early.  When and where to apply to college is a very personal decision; while it is something that students should discuss with their families and counselors, the decision and its impact ultimately rest with the students themselves.  This will be one of the first decisions that high school seniors make as adults.

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