An Early Decision agreement is a contract. Prospective students applying Early Decision agree that they will attend if admitted. Before sending in your ED application, take time to review the following considerations—
1. Are you passionate about the university to which you are applying? Passion is a distinct commonality across all Early Decision applications. Prospective students ready to enter a binding agreement are enthusiastic about this choice and know that it is their top choice for college. While you might choose to review data and statistics for the incoming class at your ED choice, let your passion rather than the data drive your decision to apply early.
2. Have you investigated your fit with this school? Whether your path to Early Decision is circuitous or straightforward, shorter or longer, you should have concrete reasons for making this choice. You reviewed the 4Cs and made connections to the culture, curriculum, and community on campus. If asked, and you most likely will be in a school-specific essay, you should be able to explain this choice, citing specific classes, professors, research opportunities, extracurricular activities, dorm options, and campus traditions.
3. Your academic journey will be the focal point of your college experience. Make sure that you understand the academic ecosystem of your ED choice, from required courses to interdisciplinary options and study abroad. Investigate how you will pursue your various intellectual interests, whether you have a major in mind or are undecided.
4. Are you ready to submit your application earlier? Early decision applicants are often well prepared to submit their applications by November 1st (if not a few days, or weeks, prior). Applicants feel confident about their transcript and testing; they met with the teachers writing their recommendations; they are thoughtfully writing, re-writing, and editing their Common Application and school-specific essays. If you are not prepared to submit your best application by this earlier date, Regular Decision might be a good option for you.
5. Are you and family members comfortable with the financial aid policies at your Early Decision choice? At Penn, for example, all financial aid is need-based and the University provides loan-free financial aid packages. This means that students will receive the same aid in the Early Decision and Regular Decision cycle at Penn. Since Penn financial aid packages are not only need-based but also loan-free, we feel comfortable letting students know that they will be financially supported at Penn.
6. Do you have a schedule prepared for the timely completion of your regular decision applications? There are three potential outcomes to your Early Decision process: Admit, Defer (your application is reviewed during the Regular Decision process), or Deny. Admissions professionals encourage students to prepare for all of these outcomes to mitigate stress, anxiety, and rush in December should you need to send applications for the Regular Decision process. Give yourself time to relax after submitting your Early Decision application but keep the continuum of your overall application process in mind.
Applying Early Decision can be exciting. It is a way for you to show your commitment to a school that means a lot to you. Continue asking questions, editing, writing, and looking inward as you move forward with your Early Decision application process.