College Process Advice: Choosing Early Decision

The College Series



We’ve all heard the horror stories of the binding agreements, the serious contracts, and sometimes, the wealth of regret that comes with choosing Early Decision (ED). But don’t let that discourage you from considering it as one of your options when applying to college. I, myself, went through the anxiety-inducing process of choosing Early Decision over Early Action and I feel as though I can offer some advice to upcoming seniors in case any are debating this path of commitment. Here are some signs that you should consider doing ED:

  1. It’s your first choice school. This may seem like an obvious one, but there are a lot of high school students who end up choosing ED for the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re desperate to get into their reach school or maybe their parents are influencing them to do it. Sometimes, our minds get clouded when we’re so deep into our college process. Take a step back and ask yourself: If I got into every school I’m applying to, and money wasn’t a factor, would I still choose this school? If the answer is yes, then start to look into ED because it’s clear the thought of not attending that school crushes you.
  1. You can identify with the student body. Let’s be honest here. During your college process, a lot of people (usually elders) are going to tell you the quality of academics should be the primary deciding factor of what school you attend. I wholly agree this perspective is important, but determining whether you will fit in with your prospective student body is just as crucial. These are the people you will be spending the next four (and maybe more) years with. The last thing you want to do is end up on a campus where you feel lost in a sea of students that are unrelatable. Talk to alumni, professors, admissions counselors– most importantly, talk to students about their experiences and put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t have a chance to talk to students during your visit, then check out the Niche website to see student reviews of the school.
  1. You visit the campus and it just feels right. Don’t take college visits for granted. When you step foot on each college campus, you should try to pretend that you’re a student there and see if it feels natural. If you’re on a tour and you start subconsciously making mental notes about which buildings you’ll be spending the most time in, or which dorm you’re going to be living in next year, or even which cafe you’re going to do your homework at, then this is a sign you can truly visualize yourself attending that school. If it feels like home, then consider doing ED.

Sidenote: Before choosing ED, read the entire agreement if you will need financial aid to attend. Although it’s binding, there are some schools who, if you’re accepted, will let you back out of the ED agreement ONLY if they do not offer sufficient financial aid. Not all schools are this lenient so I suggest calling the admissions office to double-check the terms of the contract.