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What is Early Decision?

Duke University

HARTFORD – Early Decision, or ED, is a system in which high school seniors apply before traditional deadlines, typically in early November, to one and only one college. The answer arrives from the college in mid-December. The decision is binding, and if accepted, the student is required to attend that college and must rescind all applications to other colleges.

Why is it to the student’s advantage to apply ED?

  1. For those who are clear on their first choice and who are accepted ED, the stressful admissions process is over early and the student has peace of mind early in senior year.
  2. Some athletes are strongly encouraged to apply Early Decision to their top choice college. Coaches are only going to use their influence with admissions on those athletes who are fully committed.
    • Should all students try to narrow their choices to one early to apply ED, then?
      No. There are a number of reasons why the Early Decision process may not be right for you:
    • Many counselors feel that moving this important decision to the fall of senior year deprives students of the time necessary to research and choose a college.
    • Families give up the opportunity to compare need-based financial aid offers.
    • Since ED is a binding contract, students lose the luxury of changing their minds in the interim between November and May.
    • For whom is an Early Decision application a good choice?
    • A student who 1) meets the academic profile of the college’s admitted students, 2) has visited a lot of colleges, and 3) has a clear first choice — knows which college he would attend if he got into every college on his list.

Additional considerations:

  • For families that qualify for need-based financial aid: be well-acquainted with how it works, know what the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be, and decide if you will be comfortable with only one offer. If not, don’t feel pressured to apply to college under a binding plan.
  • Students should keep in mind that the rules surrounding these early applications — Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action, and Single Choice
  • Early Action — can change from year to year, even at the same college. Make sure you read and follow the rules that are in place for the year you are applying. And do not try and game the system or you may find yourself out of the game entirely.

You and your high school student are invited to attend “The GPA Game”: A fun and interactive presentation that answers the question that every high school student is asking – “What are colleges looking for?” on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Westport-Weston YMCA at 14 Allen Raymond Lane in Westport.
This seminar is free, but space is limited so that everyone’s questions may be addressed.
If you’d like to attend, please email Janet Rosier at janet@janetrosier.com.

Janet Rosier, Certified Education Planner