EA/ED choice from my College List

Hi
I’m a high school senior from India interested in applying to CS in the US.
SAT-1550
Top 10 in my class
ECs are nationally ranked MUN, Debater (WSDC and NSDA format) and robotics competition. Started a STEAM society in school, hosted international coding and math competitions. Also have a podcast on YouTube.
This is a college list I made with as much as I could gather from the internet, might be super skewed (any feedback would be greatly appreciated).
I would need financial aid. I now have to basically finalize my EA/ED list and I don’t know which schools to pick from here. Please help with places that I would be likely to get into w/ aid. Thank you in advance!
MIT
Stanford (idk if the REA is worth closing everything out)
UPenn/Columbia
Princeton/Cornell
UIUC
Duke
Olin
HMC
Rice
GTech
Northwestern
Purdue
UWash
Case Western

You are shooting way, way too high. You say that you are in the top 10 in your class. Many of these universities don’t take 10 students in your entire country.

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Yup, I get that. I’m also applying to universities in Canada and the UK which is why my safeties aren’t as “safe”. I want to make sure that where I get in is really really somewhere that I want to go. I’m just looking at EA/ED colleges now, as I need to get started on those essays. For CS as an international applicant, where do you think I should apply early?

You should apply EA (non binding early admission) to every school that has that option. Because you require financial aid and financial aid calculators aren’t built for international applicants, I wouldn’t recommend applying ED (binding early decision) to any school.

I’d do some searches in these forums to find schools that provide aid to international students and then see how those schools are in CS. There is a recent post from an international student who was offered a full scholarship from Drexel, for example.

The general rule is not to apply ED if you need financial assistance, because schools typically offer less of it to ED applicants. I second the idea of applying EA everywhere you can.

Do you have any support for your statement that schools offer less to ED applicants? I find it hard to believe that they have two different formulas.

Are you referring to merit aid? I have heard that more than once. The logic being that no merit aid is needed to entice an ED applicant.

I don’t believe I have heard of that when it comes to need-based aid so I would be interested in learning more about that.

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I should have asked the OP first how much he and his family can pay, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot of foreign student posts lately that say they can’t afford to pay much or at all and I foolishly assumed this was probably the case here. Very poor form on my parent. (My apologies, OP, for making really uniformed assumptions about your financial situation.) If the OP can pay some, ED makes more sense, although the possiblity of getting less merit aid still applies. I don’t think the schools on his list give out a lot of merit aid anyway, but some definitely do give generous financial aid for low-income or middle-income students.

From “The Price You Pay For College” by Ron Lieber (January 2021), chapter 4: “Given how carefully colleges track prospective students, is it possible that appearing too eager will cause them to offer me a smaller discount?”

“No one wants to admit that this goes on, and the [college] consultants say that they discourage this sort of thing… That said, it has happened in the past. The Wall Street Journal documented it in a front-page story in 1996 in which it caught Carnegie Mellon offering less financial aid to students applying through an early admission program than ones who raised their hands later in the process.”

“This isn’t all that surprising if you think about it. If you were an enrollment management administrator, what would you do? When high school seniors apply early decision, they are agreeing that they will come if they win admission. These students might as well broadcast that they are not all that sensitive to price. Given that fact, what reason is there to be generous with discounts that early in the admission season? Moreover, if a small group of applicants is opening every email from you within thiry minutes of receipt, are they the ones who would need the biggest discounts to convince them to enroll if they get in? Families who are price sensitive ought to think very hard before applying early decision.”

I’m pretty sure I read similar things in either “Who Gets In And Why” by Jeffrey Salingo and/or “Indebted: How Families Make College Work At Any Cost” by Caitlin Zaloom.

Some of the top-tier schools that OP listed can afford to cover the costs for very-low-income students, but the reality is that few such students get accepted (Opportunity at Harvard. How do Harvard’s economic opportunities… | by Harvard Open Data Project | Harvard College Open Data Project | Medium). I know those schools say they are need-blind and will fully fund, but I have a hard time believing that the percentage of low-income applicants matches the number of low-income accepted students (5%). The dreadfully low number of low-income admits could be attributed to income inequality, of course, since wealthy parents can afford to pay for private schools, summer camps, tutors, lessons, coaching, test prep, etc., and therefore their kids might be able to put together slightly better applications, but knowing that doesn’t help the OP pay for school if he happens to be one of those low- or middle-income kids. His odds of admission at a school that will financially help him are still the same - really low.

I know there’s the argument that ED isn’t truly binding so the OP could back out if he can’t afford it, but, if enough kids apply ED and back out, how long do you think schools will keep offering ED spots to applicants who don’t come from a pricey ZIP code? Too many acceptances without enrollment will lower their yield. I’m pretty sure these top schools care about their yield far more than they care about helping poor students.

That is in line with my understanding… there is no incentive to offer merit or tuition discounts during the ED round. That is different than need-based financial aid.

Also, in my previous response I’d forgotten this OP is international. That adds another level of uncertainty as some colleges do not offer need-based aid to internationals or if they do, most are need aware. That should be researched. Perhaps more knowledgeable posters can address that and provide suggestions.

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