College Early Decision Admissions
Does your college/university have an early decision option for students who know your school is their top choice? If yes, what criteria do you look for in these students that is different than students who apply for regular admission. If no, why has your school chosen not to have such a program? What do you think are the most important factors that should go into a student’s decision to apply to a college for early decision?
Some colleges offer one or more early decision options for students who commit early to one top choice for college. For those colleges that offer an early decision option, and for those students who choose to use it, it is a major decision — and one that should be made only after careful consideration.
[Editor’s Note: See also our article, College-Bound Teens: Should You Go the Early Decision/Early Action Routes?.]
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Karen Guastelle, Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University has employed a binding Early Decision program for the past fifteen years. When the student does his/her diligent college research, I believe that Early Decision is a solid option. Our philosophy is that when a student enrolls at their first choice college/university they have a higher chance of persisting until graduation. We believe strongly in recruiting graduates and Early Decision is a tool to aid in this endeavor. When we review an Early Decision file we look at the classes a student has taken and their grades through junior year (we request senior year grades later), SAT or ACT, letter of recommendation and an essay. Other than the fact that we review the application through junior year, it is the same credentials as we would ask a rolling admission candidate to submit. However, we do require that Early Decision students submit a contract signed by the student, the parent and the guidance counselor so everyone is clear as to the seriousness of the binding Early Decision program.
At Sacred Heart University we have the philosophy that we use the same admission criteria for both Early Decision and rolling admission students. My philosophy is that if a student meets the criteria and can be successful academically and is a good “fit” then Early Decision is a perfect program for the student. However, while we highly recommend, we do not require an individual interview for rolling admission yet we do require a personal interview for our Early Decision students. We require the interview to ensure a student visits campus and is applying Early Decision for the right reasons. I always recommend that a student visit the campus at least twice when considering Early Decision (especially important if the first visit was during the summer) and speak with a faculty member, student, student life advisor and/or coach (if applicable).
For the right student, I believe strongly in Early Decision. The most important factors include visiting the campus several times, conversations with his/her parents, student’s own introspection, and a passion for the place.
Jay Murray, Marist College
Marist College offers both an Early Decision and an Early Action option. Our Early Decision deadline is November 15th. Accepted students must submit their deposit by February 15th. This will be the first year that we are offering a binding plan. Early applicants tend to be much stronger academically than the pool in general. We expect applicants for Early Decision to have a strong GPA and above average SAT/ACT scores. The committee also looks at geographic diversity, ethnic diversity, special talents (i.e. athletes, music), and whether or not they visited the campus. The visit helps us to determine the seriousness of the applicant. All student initiated contacts (phone calls, web inquiries) are viewed much more favorably by the committee. Our Early Action plan is simply an early notification program with a December 1st deadline.
Daniel C. Walls, Emory University
Emory offers two early decision options that are binding and require students to withdraw all other college applications if admitted. The criteria for admission are virtually the same as for regular decision. Students should evaluate binding early decision plans with great care. For students who have done extensive research and clearly have a first choice college, early decision could be an excellent opportunity. Early decision could be a mistake if a family wishes to compare need-based financial aid offers, merit-based scholarships, or if the student has not had the chance to visit and evaluate several college choices.
Tracy Manier, St. Edward’s University
No, St. Edward’s does not have an early decision option, but rather a rolling admission policy. “Rolling admission” means that the Admission Office considers applications as they are submitted and sends out decision letters as decisions are made. Applications can be submitted anytime during the admission cycle, between the fall of one’s senior year (as early as August) through May 1st, for admission to the following fall semester. Students who submit their application early in the admission cycle will receive early notification of our admission decision.
St. Edward’s encourages students to submit their application by February 1st, the “Priority Decision” deadline, in order to insure applicants the best consideration for admission and merit-based scholarships. However, a student who submits their application on or before the Priority Decision deadline is not bound to attend St. Edward’s University, if accepted, and the student has until May 1st to make their enrollment decision.
Certainly, students who have met the Priority Decision deadline are given better consideration for admission, than those who apply thereafter. Even though a student may meet the Regular Decision deadline, May 1st, they can be at a disadvantage, if they do not meet the earlier Priority deadline. Because St. Edward’s University reviews applications and offers admission on a rolling basis, beginning in the early fall, there are fewer “seats in the freshman class” and, thus, fewer offers of admission to give out to those students who apply later in the admission cycle.
As a result, the bar is higher later in the year, with respect to academic criteria and personal achievements required to successfully obtain an offer of admission. Too, an earlier application date is perceived to be an indication that the student has a stronger level of interest in the university and a higher degree of motivation than students who submit their applications later in the admission cycle.
I’m not sure if I can speak to St. Edward’s decision not to have an early decision program — history has dictated that rolling admission has served our student population well. For a student interested in pursuing early admission at another institution, I would simply advise them to be aware of the implications of the policy and to make sure that they had thoroughly investigated all of their college options.
Karen Copetas, Western Washington University
Western Washington University does not offer an early decision option. However, we do encourage students to apply far in advance of our March 1st application deadline, and we start admitting applicants on a rolling basis beginning on December 1st. As a public regional institution, we are committed to serving a wide range of students and we find that many of the students we see are not ready to make a commitment to a particular school in the fall of their senior year. We do not feel that it would be to our benefit or the students’ to offer early decision.
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