Why don't colleges do this for ED applicants applying for financial aid?

For ED applicants applying for financial aid, why don’t colleges do this:

  1. Require that FA applications be made by the ED deadline.
  2. Process the FA applications to give FA pre-reads.
  3. Deliver the FA pre-reads to the applicants well before the ED decision release date.
  4. Give each applicant a choice after seeing the FA pre-read, with a deadline well before the ED decision release date:
    a. Keep the application as ED, but with no option to “back out for financial reasons” if the actual FA is at least as good as the FA pre-read in the absence of documented adverse financial events.
    b. Switch the application to RD. (default if no answer)

This method keeps both the college and the applicants more honest about ED.


The logistics doesn’t quite work. The applicant has to sign only one ED agreement with the ED college in order to submit her/his early FA applicaiton (otherwise, s/he could submit FA applications to multiple colleges). If the FA pre-read fails to meet her/his expectation, it’d be too late for her/him to apply to another college early with the possibility of a FA pre-read (and it may even practically be too late to apply at all). S/he would have lost her/his valuable early admissions opportunity, not to mention her/his application fee.


But how is that worse than the current situation, where the ED applicant may not find out if the FA is sufficient until the (later) ED decision release date?

Based on other threads, some colleges’ NPCs do not match their actual FA calculations, and many colleges’ NPCs do not give good instructions on how to handle situations like divorced parents, leading to data entry errors. So an ED applicant may be flying blind with respect to FA at some colleges.

I didn’t say it’d be worse for students than the current situation wrt ED (I’m not a fan of ED from a student’s perspective, if you can’t tell). It might be worse for the colleges as they’d have to process more FA applications.

I wonder how many school give a quick no to the FA office for some easy no’s. Even if they can cull a quick 10% that can really lessen the FA workload.

What would be the penalty? The school can’t make you pay and attend.

Schools could collectively ban the student from attending other schools (for one year? for several years?) but how does that really help the school or the student? I don’t think all schools would agree to that. They could agree within small pods (the Ivys agree to not admit students who ED’d to another Ivy, UNC and Duke could agree, etc), but why?

Is it such a big deal for those who ED not to go to that school? Most of the schools who offer ED have waiting lines to get in, so they just accept the next student.

I think the point of the above post is that the schools should give applicants information sooner about their financial aid status so then they could back out of an ED agreement prior to the potential acceptance.

I think appicants who apply ED do so because the number of applicants for ED is less compared to RD and the acceptance rate is usually a little higher for ED than RD. They probably don’t think of the possibility of being acceptance and then not liking the financial aid offer.

This year Harvard accepted fewer than 800 of the 10,000+ students who applied early. Processing 9,000 financial aid applications for students you know you won’t be admitting is a waste of time and manpower. From my experience, financial aid offices are understaffed, so colleges would need to hire more people to create a financial aid package for every early applicant by the deadline. They aren’t going to absorb that cost. It would be passed on to consumers.

People ED at popular colleges. I don’t think those schools are going to have a problem filling their seats even if every single student who was accepted early declined the offer. I also think that guidance counselors and other families care a great deal more about a kid backing out of ED than most schools do, and certainly more than the college staff does. I see threats of severe consequences bandied about on CC every year, but they always seem to be repeating some vague rumor that happened to somebody’s brother’s coworker’s friend’s kid. And it usually seems to involve the guidance counselor refusing to release transcripts to other colleges or vindictive families trying to get a kid kicked out of other schools. There are problems with ED, but I don’t think having a few families reconsidering their finances in the spring is one of them.

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No doubt that colleges should ensure the accuracy of their NPC calculators . Then, I do think the onus is on the student/family to be sure a school is affordable before applying ED.

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The statistics I often heard is that ED yield is about 95% on average. If it is accurate, then about 5% of ED admits have to back out their ED commitments, most likely due to financial reasons. The rate of ED breaches is probably significantly higher at some schools (e.g. NYU). These schools are prepared to live with the higher rate of breaches and consider them to be part of the consequences of how they conduct their businesses, as they benefit disproportionally from ED admissions.

My kids applied EA and had priority deadlines for submitting the financial aid forms…about the same time as when the applications were due for EA. I thought most ED schools had this policy as well.

Re: a preread…many, if not most, students can just do the college net price calculators which will at least give them a decent estimate of their net costs.

The financial aid packages are sent with or very shortly after ED acceptances, and if not sufficient, this is one reason to decline the ED offer.

ED students can apply to other schools…just not other ED or SCEA in most cases. These applications can be sent and withdrawn if the ED admission offer is accepted.

Frankly, I would prefer to see schools ditch ED and do EA which isn’t binding and gives the students the ability to compare net costs amongst multiple school acceptances


Applicants are willing to apply ED because often the acceptance rate ends up being a little higher for that group. Why would schools with prominent names feel a need to “lock in” applicants to a binding agreement? Many schools should be able to meet their enrollment targets without needing ED.

A couple of benefits: it forces highly qualified applicants to choose a school instead of playing the field which helps with yield and many of those applicants tend to skew to full pay so it’s easier for the schools to budget for FA since they know they’re committed to paying and attending.

In addition to those benefits (higher yield, more full-pay and higher income students) to a college, ED (and ED2) also significantly lowers its acceptance rate to make the college appear more selective (thus more “prestigous” in some people’s minds).

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