"To ED or not to ED - that is the question"

<p>After reading all the posts related to the changing state of EA, ED etc. – I am more confused than ever. D has settled on 6 highly selective LACs but has truly identified one as her top choice (which happens to rank 5th out of the chosen 6 in terms of selectivity). She has a decent chance of getting into her top choice RD – but the odds improve quite a bit with ED and she would also be thrilled to get this whole process over with by mid December. </p>

<p>We’re new at this and I don’t think we qualify for any financial aid. We ran through numbers on an online “financial aid calculator” and the EFC was greater than the annual tuition – but I don’t know how reliable the website is. If that is the case – do we not even attempt the process for financial aid consideration? Does checking or not checking off financial aid on an ED application make a difference? Is there a good website that others use to estimate the EFC?</p>

<p>Also, D’s top choice LAC has a very limited number of merit awards. Does she risk not being considered for one of these limited merit awards if she goes the ED route? We have scrimped, sacrificed and saved for a long time – I would hate to learn that going the ED route eliminated the chance for a deserved merit award.</p>

<p>Any advice or feedback is greatly appreciated!</p>

<p>Regardless of whether your daughter applies ED, she needs at least one safety school to go with those 6 highly selective LACs. She can't wait until later to find that safety school; she needs to do so now.</p>

<p>If my daughter's experience applying ED (which she is doing right now) is any guide, your daughter will NOT have the opportunity to add additional schools to her list in December for two reasons:</p>

<p>1) The deadline for submitting RD transcript/guidance counselor recommendation requests at your high school may have passed by the time your daughter receives her ED decision. At my daughter's high school, the deadline for submitting forms for all colleges with January deadlines is the day before Thanksgiving.</p>

<p>2) The teachers who write your daughter's recommendations may demand all the forms at once -- from both her ED school and her RD schools. Both of the teachers who are writing recommendations for my daughter did this, thereby forcing her to finalize her entire application list last week.</p>

<p>I don't know if either of these considerations apply to your daughter's school, but they might.</p>

<p>You should also be aware that at some high schools, the deadline for submitting an ED transcript request, guidance counselor recommendation request, and teacher recommendation request is 1 month before the college's deadline -- in other words, ten days from now for a November 1 ED deadline. If this applies at your daughter's school, she has to do a lot of things in a hurry RIGHT NOW if she wants to apply ED.</p>

<p>As for whether applying ED will decrease your daughter's chances of getting a merit scholarship, I can't speak to that. Hopefully someone else can.</p>

<p>You have really good questions, and they can't be answered generically. It depends on the college. You should read its website and admissions materials carefully, with the following in mind:</p>

<p>-- Some colleges say they are "need blind" in admissions. That means that they will not take a candidate's request for financial aid into account in making the acceptance decision. If the college does not say it is "need blind", then it isn't.</p>

<p>-- Some colleges commit to meeting "100% of need" for financial aid, but most don't. The "100% of need" schools may have separate merit scholarships, too. "Need" will almost always be defined in terms of total cost -- not just tuition, but also room, board, books, and projected expenses. But there can be significant differences in how colleges calculate EFC, and also in the kind of package they offer (loans, grants, work-study, etc.). Most colleges don't commit to meeting 100% of need, and there financial aid decisions can be like a second admissions decision -- they can give your child enough, or not.</p>

<p>-- Some colleges ONLY give merit awards to ED kids, or reserve a portion of their merit awards for ED kids. Others don't. You have to read carefully, and probably ask. And try to find out how competitive the merit awards are, how big, how many kids, how they are chosen, etc. There are lots of threads here on merit awards at LACs.</p>

<p>-- The one thing that's clear is that if your daughter applies ED and is accepted, you will be stuck with that school's financial aid decision. So it behooves you to learn something about its financial aid process and record before you make the ED/RD decision. The standard advice you will get is not to apply ED anywhere if you care about financial aid. That is a rule that can have exceptions -- in some cases, you can get a good enough idea about likely financial aid to make a reasonable decision to apply ED -- but before your daughter applies ED you should either (a) know exactly why you think this is an exception, or (b) decide that you could live with a worst-case financial aid scenario at her first-choice school.</p>

<p>Very sound advice.</p>

<p>D's school seems to just be ramping up for the whole college application process and has not conveyed any deadlines (Class of 2007 has only 259 students and not all will be college bound). After reading Marian's response, I sent an e-mail to her GC to clarify deadlines.</p>

<p>GC told us that he would be photocopying the original Teacher Recommendation letter to use for the non ED applications. Does that sound right? I would have thought that colleges would want an original signed recommendation.</p>

<p>JHS - thank you for the aid info. We will ask the ED college more specific questions. I think my perception regarding the limited merit awards was that they would use them to entice some of the RD accepted pool.</p>

<p>Re GC copying teacher rec and providing them to all colleges. That is the typical approach - "signed" recs by each teacher are not usually required. Some method of ensuring that the entire college package is "official" - eg, sealed and signed across the seal by GC/Registrar - is important. If a rec or transcript is sent solo, it is also best practice to seal and sign across the seal. If the rec is handed to the student (not typical, but done at some schools), having the envelope signed across the seal is good practice. Colleges do not expect teachers to do "original" recommendation letters for each school, although I suppose some teachers do this.</p>

<p>Merit awards - do they go the ED "committed" applicants? Or are they used to entice the uncommitted RD students? This is always a key question. I think your best bet is to do as JHS recommended. Call and speak with the school admissions office; ask them this question directly and then use your gut feeling to assess the answer you hear. I have heard of merit $$ being used both ways.</p>

<p>A "trap for the unwary" we ran into two years ago:</p>

<p>Some purely merit scholarships (outside and some schools) require (for some reason known only to academic minds!) an official FAFSA submission as a prerequisite. So even if your EFC is (as ours was) higher than tuition, there are some scholarships that your child will fail to qualify for if you elect not to submit a FAFSA.</p>

<p>We found this out "the hard way." I am one of those seemingly increasingly few people who treasure personal privacy (but that's another, political thread!) so when I discovered there was no possible way we'd ever qualify (nor should we) for so much as a nickel of need-based financial aid, I elected to simply not fill out and submit a FAFSA...I considered its requirements for detailed, private, personal information an unwarranted invasion of my privacy.</p>

<p>That decision eliminated S from consideration for a couple of merit-based scholarships.</p>

<p>In retrospect, I'm not unhappy with our decision. I think the scholarships, nice tho they would have been, wouldn't have been big enough (or necessary enough) to make it worth (to me) giving out so much very personal information.</p>

<p>In our case, the situation was made more complicated by the fact that S's father and I are divorced and we would have had to figure out a way to provide financial data to the schools & scholarship authorities (altho not FAFSA) without providing that same data to each other--something neither of us particularly wanted to do. </p>

<p>So...long story short: if you don't mind providing detailed information about your finances and financial (and lifestyle) choices in order to make sure your child will qualify for merit-based scholarship consideration (which may or may not result in her winning a scholarship), you should submit your FAFSA even if your EFC is stratospheric!</p>

<p>If your daughter's ED possibility is 1)Far and away her definite first and favorite choice and 2) She (and you and your family) would definitely benefit from a decision in December than I think this is the genuine and true purpose of ED. She has to be prepared for 1)still working on the other apps so those options stay real if needed and 2) you both need to relinquish the potential gratification of merit awards and feeling courted. (She could still get an award, depending on the school, but to truly embrace ED, she/you have to willing to be unrecognized in that regard...) For our family, the simplicity and relief of ED was well worth it (and we had determined that we would not qualify for need-based aid. It also way out balanced any potential merit satisfaction (probably had been more my interest than his for sure.) </p>

<p>I expect small LACs will continue to offer ED as an option for students who have a clear sense of the kind of community they want early enough to just say so and relinquish the options. For students, it is the readiness to let go of other choices without regret that matters--and probably only a small proportion of kids really are ready to do that.(and probably an even smaller proportion of parents....) When it works, it is a great relief...</p>

<p>When D went through this, we knew she would need FA, so she did only EA. That said, what we found was that packages at schools were vastly different, depending on what the schools factored into the costs. In our case, the LAC (also elite) where she is attending offered much more $ because they factored in alarger amount for books, and the also factored in travel expenses, etc. Her package was a good 9K over the others. Also, this year, it was about 12K more. Many of the elite LAC's promise to meet established financial need. If that is true of your D's schools, then it can't hurt to fill out the forms and request aid. The worst htat can happen is that they say you don't qualify. On the other hand, I also agree that no matter how wonderful the candidate, she needs a couple safeties that she really likes. There are too many stories on this site and others where fantastic students were rejected at all their choices. There are no guarantees with elite college admissions. Good luck!</p>

<p>The big downsides to applying ED are the financial aid issues and the "buyer's remorse". In my sons' schools I have seen kids somehow "settle" on a ED school that may not be their first choice, but is a good choice with a better chance for admittance than what may be higher choices. When the student gets in, and then finds other kids with equivalent profiles accepted at those other schools, the regret sets in. Also with kids, priorities and preferences can change at the drop of the hat.
For merit awards, it is difficult to say whether the ED kids who are locked into the decision are equally considered . It certainly isn't a pragmatic way to go for the admissions director. Why give the award to some who can afford coming there and is committed to coming, when there are yield issues that are of concern and any number of kids who may be at the brink of deciding where they will go. A nice merit award just might tip the balance in those cases. You should ask financial aid about their policies, and then see if you can also find out how many ED kids got merit awards last year. That would be more telling than the stated philosophy of the school. Can't imagine these schools having an official policy of saving the merit money for the RDs to entice more of them to come, but I sure can see it working out that way.</p>