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Early Decision Choice and Strategy

BookLvrBookLvr 139 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
I understand that ED exists to allow applicants who have a clear first choice to apply to that school and get an early response. It benefits the college because they can lock in students who will definitely matriculate, and it benefits applicants because they can potentially get an early answer.

Let's say an applicant is equally in love with four schools and would be extremely happy to be accepted to any of those four. All four of those schools offer ED1 and ED2. She has visited all of those schools at least once (and has visited a total of a dozen schools). She has visited one of her top choices a second time and has plans to visit the other three a second time as well over the course of the fall, primarily so she can sit on classes. They are all National Liberal Arts Colleges, all happen to be in the US News Top 40, but none of them are the #1 or 2 school on that list. All four are schools under 3500 students and are in the New England-to-Ohio northeast quadrant of the country.

Let's stipulate that the parents of this applicant are willing and able to pay full freight at any of the four, and would in fact write the checks with smiles on their faces.

(Let's also stipulate that the applicant is applying EA to a safety she also loves and would happily attend!)(Yes, this is a kid who loves a lot schools! She's very upbeat on the whole subject of college.)

QUESTION: In your opinion, should the applicant

1) ED at the school at which she has the BEST chance of admission out of the four, or

2) ED at one of the reachier schools within her top four, on the grounds that that is where she would arguably most benefit from the ED boost relative to the RD round (her GPA and standardized test scores are in 25-75 range for this school, but standardized test score is not at the top of the range),

3) hope that a clearer #1 favorite emerges during her return visits, but if not, pull a name at random from a hat since they all make her very happy, or

4) apply RD to all of them along with the other schools on her list since she doesn't have a clear favorite, or

5) other/it depends?

I tried to ask the question above in a somewhat abstract way so that it might be useful to other College Confidential readers and not just my own student. Some additional specifics:

My daughter's high school guidance counselor (who knows my daughter and her credentials very well) believes that my daughter has a 90% chance of getting in to College A if she applies ED, about a 50-50 chance if she applies ED to Colleges B or C, and about a 70% chance if she applies to College D, if that makes a difference.

These four colleges have between a 17% and a 36% acceptance rate overall (ED and RD rounds combined). According to their Common Data Sets, they have between a 30% and a 49% acceptance rate in the ED round.

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Replies to: Early Decision Choice and Strategy

  • joecollege44joecollege44 116 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    tough question and the answer will depend on your personality type. But if it was me, and I loved all 4 equally, and the prestige difference was minimal, I would ED at the 90% one and be done with it all.
    If there is a significant selectivity and prestige difference, then that does create the risk of buyers remorse- oh, man, I should have tried for the harder one, now I will never know...you don't want to live with that.
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  • TheBigChefTheBigChef 554 replies5 threadsRegistered User Member
    If your daughter really has no preference between the four schools (including not caring about the relative prestige/selectivity of the schools), apply ED to College A. If her GC is correct, there is a 90% chance that it will all be over with in November.
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  • MomInSBMomInSB 66 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    You have probably already had this conversation, but I would ask my student "how will you feel if you get into school A and your process is over?" For one of my kids, they were thrilled with that notion and happy to be done. For the other, they would agonize over "what if" and "why didn't I" for the remaining months of senior year.

    I think it's rationale and smart to get it done by going with choice A, provided you are pretty sure your kid won't be having regrets all senior year or starting at the school with less than excitement.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29422 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If it makes absolutely no difference to students and parents which school the applicant gets ED acceptance, then go for the best odds. That’s not the usual case. Someone in the picture is hoping for College A, maybe because of its lowest accept rate, and has twinges of disappointment and remorse when ED acceptance to college D with double the accept rate is now out of the picture. The “what if’s? start a-creeping. Which I’d fine, natural as long as they don’t get out of hand.

    My youngest started out with 3 equal favorites. By the time apps were done, there was fortunately a clear favorite, and an EA school that came in with not only an acceptance but a big fat juicy merit award catapulted to second place. There was going to be no RD round if the ED school deferred to RD. It was game over by year end.
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  • pickpocketpickpocket 392 replies3 threadsRegistered User Member
    You should hope that a clearer #1 emerges (and I think this is likely) during your return visits.
    It doesn't really make sense to ED the 'reachier' one if it truly is in a tie with another school. If it 2 or more schools are truly equally desirable to you and your child, then go for the surer bet. You will have a higher likelihood of a very happy holiday season.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1433 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would challenge the argument that "she likes 4 colleges equally". I would create a schedule of the 4 colleges and list out pros and cons of all 4 colleges and see which one has the slight edge in the results. That is the one I would ED to. This way she will have to regrets.

    With that said, there is no requirement that she has to ED to ANY of them. I'm sure the 90% college will likely accept her in RD too as she has strong stats for that college, obviously.

    The good news is there is no wrong answer and it's great that she has 4 excellent colleges and strong safety that she likes.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The colleges with "the BEST chance of admission" are the colleges where SHE matches what THEY want. Not the general admissions rate. Have you explored what her real match is- not just stats and some ECs with leader positions. It's the rest that matters, when these are competitive holistic schools.

    The problem with trying to game this is the fact of making this decision now. There is no advantage to an early app, "just" for applying early. You have to be what they want.

    That's one of the important elements we considered when each kid made her choices: "They would want me because..."
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78232 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    BookLvr wrote: »
    2) ED at one of the reachier schools within her top four, on the grounds that that is where she would arguably most benefit from the ED boost relative to the RD round

    For some students, ED may give the most benefit at a college that the student is "overqualified" for, but leans on "level of applicant's interest" because it does not like being used as a "safety". ED is the strongest possible expression of interest.

    But it seems that not too many students have a college that they are "overqualified" for as their top choice.
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  • Techno13Techno13 175 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I could have written your post-- VERY similar, though we';re a year out still, but will be facing the same decisions. My advice (who knows if my D1 will follow it)---
    a.) see if a true #1 emerges
    b.) apply to "most likely" ED acceptance. I see you have already looked at ED acceptance rates. Others' comments about fit is also relevant though.
    c.) if NOT accepted consider ED2 at one of the others.
    I can also see the wisdom of applying ED1 to the most competitive and ED2 (if needed) to the "most likely". But if you get in at ED1 you're DONE. ED2 you still have to complete apps to all the schools on your list.

    Please let us know what you decide and if comfortable, which 4 schools!
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 139 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    RE: Lookingforward
    Yes. Agree with your point. I think the reason the high school guidance counselor thinks she has a 90% chance of getting in to College A is because she is a match to what they want. The school has a 36% acceptance rate overall, 49% ED...and the reason my daughter would be a particularly good match has much less to do with stats and more to do with her matching the specific qualities this school looks for.

    Two students from her school are in the freshman class this year and they have some significant similarities with her in terms of this set of qualities (though they are quite different in other respects).
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2498 replies31 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @BookLvr, thanks for the clear presentation. We're in a very similar situation right now. Good luck!
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 139 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks, everyone, for the great feedback!

    Hopefully that second round of visits will bring some additional clarity, and if it does not, I think I have a clearer sense of the path forward. And @socaldad2002 , we will definitely try that strategy of listing pros and cons of each college at that juncture.

    It would be nice to be done by the end of 2019...but it is even more important to me that she wind up happy with her choice! (The good news is that I think she will be pretty happy at any of her choices. I am going to try to keep reminding myself of that!)

    @Techno13 , I will PM you the names of the schools (if I can figure out how to do that! I don't think I have sent a PM since the forum changed.)
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  • helpingmom40helpingmom40 59 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Great question! We are in a very similar situation and your school descriptions seem like similar schools, too. My D is down to only 2 schools for ED/ED2 after 3 visits to each plus trips planned to some athletic games to get a feel for school spirit. GC says she has equally good chances at both based on past students.

    The only other criteria I can suggest looking at is what her classmates are looking at. One of D’s schools has a lot more interest than the other among her peers, something like 5-6 others applying to a school that generally takes 1 student per year from our school. Our strategy is focusing on who is using the more popular school as ED1, ED2, or RD to see who her direct competition is more likely to be and making the assumption that the other school will have less applicants from our school (still takes 1 out of the 1-2 applicants every year).
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29422 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don’t think it makes any difference if there are multiple apps from same school. I know Harvard took an unprecedented 9 kids from one of my kid’s High schools one year. I’ve seen multiple of ED kids each year from my kids and these are small selective schools. But if it makes you and your student feel better, strategize away.

    Ask your student to talk to the GC. At my kids’ school, certain colleges were encouraged as there was a good working relationship between the GC and the Admissions office. GC loved delivering those ED apps to those schools. Done deal early, win all around.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 1892 replies6 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yeah, I wouldn’t look at other apps from the high school either. D19 got into her #1 choice ED1, so did two other kids from her school, while a few were rejected. On paper some of the rejected kids had a better application than she did.

    Agree with someone’s comment above about the individual kid too. Mine was so happy to be done with everything by mid-December when ED decisions came out, but it was easy for her t be happy as her ED choice was a clear #1 and there wouldn’t be any “what if’s”. I always worry about buyer’s remorse in a strategy of EDing to the best odds if it’s not a clear number one as well.

    And for D19’s school, this past year was also odd in that one college (ivy) that usually takes 8-10 people from her school only took one, while another that had taken just one in the last 5 years took 3 kids this year. So I also wouldn’t base a strategy on what a college “usually” does.
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  • 3SailAway3SailAway 424 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    ED was a wonderful thing for my D19. She had 3 favorites after visiting about 10 east coast LAC’s. We planned to visit those 3 again, and she chose which one to go to first. She shadowed a student (not overnight), went to classes, and practiced with a club team. We spent the weekend in the town, sat in coffee shops, went to a farmers market, visited nearby sights, and she walked around the campus by herself. We didn’t end up revisiting the other two schools because she felt so sure about this one.

    It was actually the least reachy of the 3, although 30% acceptance rate still felt plenty reachy to us. She does have several qualities the school particularly looks for, and she was accepted ED.

    She’s there now, and so happy, it’s like she’s falling in love. But maybe that would have happened at any of her favorites because like the OP said about her daughter, she’s very upbeat about college! I do think there may be something about her personality that drew her to this school in particular because she is meeting a lot of people who are kindred souls.

    So, my advice would be to revisit. But if your daughter is the kind of person who’s going to commit wholeheartedly and take advantage of all opportunities, I think she would love any one of her schools. Best wishes!
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  • Sunny66Sunny66 278 replies14 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @BookLvr Good question. I would do additional visits and wait to see if she has a clear favorite (vs. four-way tie) and ED there. I would not ED to a second or third choice. There is some information that would be useful to know, most notably what your daughter brings to the table in terms of: GPA and test scores, ECs, teacher recs, awards, overall strength of application, and whether she hits any institutional priorities for the schools. While these are competitive schools, we are not talking about 5% admission rate schools. For School A, with a 36% acceptance rate, seems that she could get in ED2 there if she is a great match for the school. Fine to ED1 there if it's her favorite, but I would not ED1 just because it is the most likely admit according to school guidance counselor.
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3500 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 13
    Applying to colleges is not a double blind science experiment. The kid is only going to enroll at one college, no matter what application strategy you follow. So you'll never ever see the data from the road not taken.

    So long as the schools on the app list are pretty good fits, any of those schools will work fine. So don't overthink it. If there's really not a clearer favorite, I'd go for the ED favorite and be done with it.

    When the kid comes home for frosh year Thanksgiving break, odds are that the kid will love school #1 and will say they can't imagine going anywhere else. And if the kid ends up enrolling at school #2 #3 or #4, the kid will say the same thing.

    My kid and her HS friends all love their schools today. Most wound up at school #2 #3 #4. Most kids kids bloom where planted. Most kids love the one they're with.

    "2) ED at one of the reachier schools within her top four, on the grounds that that is where she would arguably most benefit from the ED boost relative to the RD round (her GPA and standardized test scores are in 25-75 range for this school, but standardized test score is not at the top of the range),"

    Be careful about this. ED usually doesn't turn a 25% stat RD reject into an ED admit. More likely is that applying ED gets a 60% stat kid in over another similar 60% stat kid who applies later in RD.
    edited September 13
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 139 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Good point and note of caution, @northwesty . In this particular instance, it's not that clear cut.

    With regard to Colleges B and C, this is neither a kid who is at the 60th percentile+ in standardized test scores (though in GPA probably yes!) nor at the 25th percentile, but rather in between. There are some other interesting factors at play at College B, too.

    In any case, I 100% agree with you that she will almost certainly bloom where planted...and that would include not just Colleges A-D that are on her current "possible ED" list, but also colleges E-H, which are on her RD list if the ED doesn't work out, and probably Colleges I, J, K, or L which she doesn't currently think she is applying to but could easily fall in love with. (She is trying to keep her total app number reasonable, and her school does have an absolute cap of 12. Her current list is 8 or 9.) Every now and then she throws a total wild card into the mix, e.g., St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe with its Great Books program. My daughter can easily imagine herself loving that too!
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  • DCCAWAMIIAILDCCAWAMIIAIL 124 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    DD was in a very similar situation a year ago... narrowed ED down to 4 schools - probably all had lower ED odds for her than you noted for your daughter. Overall acceptance rates less than 20% at all of them. Stellar academic record, solid (but not spectacular) ECs, essays and recommendations. I was very concerned that she was going to fall into some never never land where she wasn't quite what the top schools were looking for and the next tier down schools thought they were her safety school and wouldn't admit to protect their yield.

    She is legacy at one of the schools and could see herself at any of the four - they each had their plusses and minuses. We discouraged her from putting all of her emotional eggs in one basket. We did encourage her to apply to a school ED as we all thought it would give her a leg up. One of the schools had ED 2 so that was moved to the "if I don't get into the first one" pile. And then she narrowed it down to just one.

    She also applied to three schools EA - two big state schools (one in state) and one private. She received her EA admittance to the in state school a few hours before the ED decision came out. She was admitted! (She was admitted to the second state school later that evening and had to withdraw her application from the EA private school.)

    We were all so happy that the process was done by mid December! And she knew where she would be going in the fall. No additional decisions to make.

    I definitely encourage ED if there appears to be an admissions advantage and if you can live with the estimated financial aid / net price calculator results.

    Good luck to your daughter!
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