There’s a belief among students and families that the odds of being accepted to a college are better if students apply early decision vs. regular decision. Let the numbers speak for themselves and download our most up to date information showing early decision/early action results compared to regular decision. In some cases the odds of being accepted are dramatically different if you apply early vs. regular admissions, but remember – applying early decision is a binding agreement between a student and the college.
Some interesting insights from the data:
- Schools with restricted early action plans had the lowest early admission rates, ranging form 9% to 17%.
(Restrictive Early Action (REA) is a non-binding early application option for students interested in applying to Stanford, Boston College, Harvard,Princeton, Notre Dame and Yale. Students applying REA may not apply to any college or university in their binding Early Decision program. REA admission decisions are released by December 15, and admitted students have until May 1 to respond to their offer.)
- Colleges that use some form of early admissions practices tend to fill a large percentage of their freshman class through early admissions.
26 colleges on this list fill 50% or more of their freshman class through early decision/action admissions, while 55 colleges on the list fill 40% or more of their freshman class. What has become more popular among these colleges is the use of multiple early decision deadlines – known as early decision I (ED I) and early decision II (ED II). 40 of these schools have 2 early decision dates.
- A student’s chances of being admitted are better applying early decision.
44 colleges have an early decision admission rate that is double or more their regular decision rate. This would imply that a student has a better chance of being admitted if they apply early. The information we don’t have to better clarify this insight is information about test scores and GPA for students admitted early decision and if there is a bias of students with better academic requirements applying early. But if your academic profile (test scores and GPA) is better than the 50% percentile, you probably have a better chance of being admitted if you apply early.
For example, some schools give a very large advantage during early decision (ED vs. RD):
- Claremont McKenna College: 32% ED to 7% RD
- American University: 85% ED to 23% RD
- Middlebury College: 43% ED to 13% RD
- University of Pennsylvania: 23% ED to 7% RD
Find our more about the difference between early action and early decision.
Do your research and understand college costs before applying early decision. Ask yourself and your student these questions before committing to applying early decision (as recommended by independent college counselor Wendy Bolen Andreen):
- Why do you want to apply early?
- Does the school feel like an academic, cultural, and geographic fit?
- Are there activities, choices of majors, opportunities for internships and research that interest you?
- Are you 110% sure this is the school that meets your academic needs?
- Will merit scholarships be a deciding factor on where you can afford to send your student?
- Are you prepared to pay the full ‘sticker price’, if you don’t receive enough aid?
Early decision is a binding decision and should be honored as such. High school guidance counselors and independent college counselors don’t support the idea that a student can “pull out” of early decision once they have been admitted, just because the financial aid package doesn’t fit a family’s needs. Resources, like a college’s Net Price Calculator, are available to help a family get a close idea of how much a college will potentially cost before their student applies. (A link to each college’s NPC is included in our download).