Hello! I am an international female student in my second year of A Levels (which is the equivalent of senior year at US high schools). I have been researching Smith College extensively for a couple of months now, and will be applying there this year,
However, I'm conflicted about whether to apply Early Decision or Regular Decision. As far as my qualifications are concerned, I think I'm objectively a strong candidate (maybe not mind-blowing, but strong), given my academic record and participation in ECAs (my decision to potentially ED to Smith has been met with surprise by most of peers who expect me to pick 'better' colleges like Yale or Princeton - though I'm a huge proponent for looking past US News rankings to find a better fit, whether that's a great LAC or a top-notch research university).
Everything about Smith makes it the perfect 'fit' for me - the small class size, the focus on breeding independent female innovators and leaders, the charm of Northampton as a college town, the strong relationships formed with housemates and professors alike, research opportunities, and I could go on - but the one thing that worries me is the amount of aid I need; my EFC may only come up to about $10-15 K per year.
Do you think I should still apply to Smith Early Decision despite the financial aid problem since it's my dream school, or would it be better to apply regular decision to compare aid packages from other schools? Would I stand a better shot of getting aid (possibly even STRIDE or Zollman scholarships) through ED, or it doesn't make a difference?