The Rapidly Transforming Face of College Admission: Even More Early Options

by
Co-Founder, Director of College Admissions Counseling, One-Stop College Counseling

Mar   2017

Mon

27

So many changes this year, and now…Early Decision III?

Most college counselors will agree that 2016 was the year of changes in the college admission process.  

  1. There was a major financial aid procedure alteration (“prior, prior year”) where families were told to submit tax documents from 2015 instead of 2016.
  2. The New SAT was transformed into a test that closely resembled the ACT, and the scores were revised so that colleges needed a concordance table to decipher their meaning.
  3. Individual colleges revised multiple admission policies, deciding whether or not to:
    - Require standardized tests and/or essays
    - Super-score the ACT
    - Eliminate their SAT subject test requirement 

But there were additional, less publicized changes too. Numerous schools introduced new application choices: some added Early Decision for the first time, others offered an Early Decision II round, and many chose to institute an Early Action II (non-binding) option. We also saw selective colleges, such as the University of Chicago and Tulane University, allow students who were deferred during the Early Action round to elect to be re-evaluated under a binding Early Decision II plan.

But the biggest surprise among families was the realization that certain colleges have extended their Early Decision deadlines into February or even March! Savvy students and parents began to ask me, “Is College XYZ actually offering an Early Decision III plan? ED III? Oh my!

Let’s backtrack a bit to review the basics. Early Action is a no-risk proposition: students apply early, hear early, and don’t need to commit to the college until May 1. Early Decision is another option that many colleges offer—it’s a binding agreement that a student, his parents, and his high school counselor sign stating that if admitted by College X, the student will attend and withdraw all other pending applications. Why, you might wonder, would a student commit themselves to one school and forgo the chance to keep their options open? It’s simple, actually: if you show a college “the love,” they are typically more likely to reciprocate by admitting you. Early Decision has been around for decades, and now slightly over 40% of schools that offer Early Decision have instituted Early Decision II, a second chance to “commit” to your favorite college.

Although the Early Decision numbers can be skewed a bit with already committed athletes applying during the early round, just to demonstrate the point, here are some facts from last year’s admission cycle:

Class of 2020:  Early Decision vs. Regular Decision

       
 

% Accepted

% Accepted

% Accepted

College

Early

Regular

Total

 

 

 

 

Amherst

40%

12%

14%

Brown

22%

8%

9%

Columbia

18%

5%

6%

Cornell

27%

12%

14%

Dartmouth

26%

9%

11%

Duke

24%

9%

10%

Johns Hopkins

30%

10%

11%

Northwestern

35%

8%

11%

Penn

23%

7%

9%

Williams

42%

10%

17%

Here are the statistics from this year so far (Regular Decision numbers aren’t completed yet), detailing the large percentage of the freshman class that is filled during the ED round:

   

(2021) % Accepted

% Class

College

 

Early Decision

 

Filled ED

         
         

Brown

 

22%

 

42%

Cornell

 

26%

 

43%

Dartmouth

28%

 

47%

Duke

 

24%

 

50%

Johns Hopkins

31%

 

45%

Northwestern

26%

 

50%

Penn

 

22%

 

55%

Williams

 

35%

 

47%

 

 

 

 

 

As you can surmise from the two charts, the Early Acceptance rates at many universities are significantly higher than the Regular Decision acceptance rates, and often colleges choose to fill a large portion of their class during the Early Decision round. 

Although some professionals in the college admission industry have written this year about the evils of Early Decision, the bottom line is that it can be advantageous to both sides. It helps the colleges by augmenting their yield while more accurately predicting the number of enrolled students, and it provides the students with an increased probability of gaining acceptance into their college of choice.  The students I have worked with, including those needing financial aid, have greatly benefited from being able to apply to an Early Decision plan. But Early Decision has recently become more complicated.

Certain colleges are allowing students to change their Regular Decision application to Early Decision or Early Decision II after they may have already been rejected by an ED and/or ED II school. 

For example, Colgate University allows a student to convert their “Regular” application to ED II up until March 1. Since the majority of ED II decisions have already been released by then, in reality, this becomes an ED III for many students. Furthermore, this second Early Decision round is “rolling.” The fact that applicants can receive a quick decision after applying ED II is alluring. 

Lafayette College and Marist College also allow students to alter their decision plan to “Early” if done by February 1, and Muhlenberg accepts admission plan changes until February 15.  Again, since some colleges (like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) notify candidates by January 15 of their Early Decision II status, an unsuccessful candidate could then apply Early Decision elsewhere, technically as an ED III applicant.   

So it is true: as much as Early Decision critics cringe, students are now able to navigate the system to have three chances at Early Decision, even though there isn’t a college in the US with a plan entitled ED III.  Admittedly, this third try at Early Decision may not be an ideal way to approach admission, but there’s no denying it’s a possible path. Unless colleges and universities decide to pull back on these tempting early programs, it seems that this will be the wave of the future.

And then there are also the colleges who appear to offer something for everyone. Trinity University in Texas has the following choices: Early Action I, Early Decision I, Early Action II, Early Decision II and, of course, Regular Decision. You have to imagine, however, that the majority of the class is admitted during one of the four early rounds.

The admission process has rapidly transformed into an “early game,” and many counselors are poised to adapt to the inevitable changes expected to be introduced this coming year.  Last week the University of Richmond announced they will be adding Early Action to their ED I and ED II choices for the 2017–2018 application year. Stay tuned… 

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About Laurie Kopp Weingarten

Laurie Kopp Weingarten

Laurie is a Certified Educational Planner and Co-founder of One-Stop College Counseling. Laurie works with students in her New Jersey office and throughout the United States and Asia via Skype. Laurie graduated summa cum laude from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and received an MBA from Harvard Business School.
 
Beginning with ninth graders, Laurie guides students through each stage of the college admission process. She is passionate about helping students reach their full academic and extracurricular potential; there is nothing more rewarding than their look of elation upon acceptance to their top-choice schools!
Laurie is a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and also a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling (NJACAC), and the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling.

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