Is Applying Early Decision to College the Right Choice?



by Purvi S. Mody

Question: My parents and I cannot agree on Early Decision. I have fallen in love with two schools equally and would be willing to commit to either. My parents on the other hand are holding out for a school that I think is beyond my reach.

Answer: Parents and students often think about applying early decision to a school differently, which is the root of the conflict. Early decision is meant for those students that absolutely are ready to commit to one school. It is also for students that are ready to apply and will be able to present the best application possible by the earlier deadline.

One other factor your parents are likely contemplating is financial aid. When you apply Early Decision to a school, the chance of getting merit based aid does go down; the school has less incentive to provide you this type of aid because you have already demonstrated your deep interest in attending.

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Parents will often want their children to apply Early Decision to the school that is the most difficult. While the rationale there is that you send the message about your commitment to a competitive school, the results are not always as favorable. In many cases, I recommend applying ED to a school that is a reach, but not a high reach as long as the student loves everything about the school. In the past I have seen students damage their chances at two schools because they opted to apply early to the school that was much harder to get into. It is important to be realistic about your chances.

So what do you and your parents need to do now that you are at this point of disagreement? Sit down and have a rational conversation. Screaming, crying, and pouting – on either party’s side – is not effective in communication or negotiation. Being calm during this conversation can show your parents that you are mature and making a choice based on reason and fact.

Before you meet, write down your pros and cons for the two schools you love. Do the same for the schools your parents want you to consider. Pull up any statistics that you can about the admissions rates. Sit down with your school or private counselor about your chances at the different schools to see what makes most sense.  This will help you understand if those other schools your parents are keen on are truly out of reach.

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Talk through the financial ramifications of your choices. Would your parents be willing to support you if you get into your choice of school early decision? This is a very important part of the conversation. While I have heard so many kids say that this should be their choice because it is where they will be going, the reality is that your parents should have a major role in this decision. They need to feel comfortable with where you will be going. They also need to be able to commit financially. Most importantly, they know you very well and can help guide you.

If at the end of this conversation, you and your parents are still at an impasse, realize that there is no pressure to apply early decision. Yes, it can be a great option for students, but it is not a requirement. You do not need to apply early in order to get into college. More importantly, you may not actually be ready to commit and may appreciate having choices in the spring.

Good luck!

Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the country and internationally to achieve their educational goals. Get in touch with her via email at or follow her on Twitter @InsightEduc.