Are you applying to college soon and wondering where applying Early Decision really matters? And what are the odds of you getting in if you apply Early Decision versus Regular Decision? In this blog, we’re going to dive into the latest data that’s available on the top 50 or so ranked colleges, with some liberal arts colleges thrown in, and we’re going to investigate where applying ED or restrictive early action counts.
As I get into this, the first thing that I’m going to say is that I’m going to go through a lot of data in this video. There are some schools I’m not going to cover each data point for. So, if you want to go to SMU, if you’re interested in Fordham, or if there are other colleges on your list, make sure you check out the data we included in this blog.
So, we’re going to start now with schools where you have a 4x to 8x plus advantage if you apply Early Decision versus Regular Decision. I know a lot of you, when you apply to college, look at that percent chance of getting in, or that admission rate. But that admission rate is kind of bogus, and it doesn’t actually matter because it’s a combination of multiple rates. It’s a combination of Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision admission rate and Regular Decision admission rate, which are sometimes completely disparate. So, you might see an admission rate of 11%, and it actually might be representative of an Early Admission rate of 20% and a Regular Admission rate of 3%, which are totally disparate. And there’s never an 11% chance you’re getting in. So we’re going to look at these numbers and dig a little deeper into the story.
On the top of this list is Tulane University. As I said in my blog and video of the same nature last year, Tulane is notorious for really only letting in people who apply early. If for some reason you can’t ED, Tulane has Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2, and Early Action. If you Early Action at first and want to bump it up to ED, you can if you get deferred, but not if you get rejected. Grinnell is next on my list. Then Colby, Northeastern, Amherst, Barnard, and Columbia.
Also of note is the 4.6x chance of getting into Columbia early. I have had many students apply to Columbia early and get in. I have had many fewer students apply regular and get in. We’re looking at a 12.5% admit rate versus 2.7%. And over half the class, 53.7%, is filled with kids who applied early. So it is important to apply early if you want to go to Columbia. Dartmouth has the highest Ivy League admission rate in the country, over 20%. Did you know an Ivy League school has an over 20% admit rate? Dartmouth, early decision: 21.3%. Williams and Middlebury are also on this list.
Next, I’m looking at schools where you have a 3x to 4x chance of getting in if you apply early versus regular. Northwestern, Claremount, McKenna, Brown, Bowdoin, Cornell, and Duke. We’re seeing some of the top 10 colleges here. This also includes Haverford, Pomona, Vanderbilt, Harvard, Wesleyan, Davidson, Swarthmore, University of Miami, Hamilton, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania. Now, I’m going to say there’s some caveat to this in the sense that at a place like Penn or a place like Harvard, legacy definitely plays into admissions quite a bit. And legacies are basically told that if you want the legacy bump, you have to apply early. So we do see some bump in these rates that’s attributable to athletes as well as legacies. So, the actual advantage to you if you’re not in one of those categories might not be 3x, for example, at Yale. Maybe it’s 2x. But as a consultant, I still see enough of a bump that if schools are in this range and you want to bump your admission rate, it’s good to apply early. Most of these colleges are filling over 50% of their classes with early students. So, this is really going to make a difference in your application.
My next list is schools where you get a 2x to 3x bump if you apply early, whether it’s single-choice Early Action or Early Decision. This includes Washington and Lee, Wash U in St. Louis, Emory, Villanova, University of Virginia, Wellesley, Smith, Rice, Boston University, Colgate University, American University, and NYU. NYU is kind of interesting because they have ED1 and ED2. And they also have a really high rate of early people filling their class. So, that’s the other statistic that I want to talk about now, which is the ED over-enrolled percentage. What I do is take the number of students that enroll that applied to ED and divide it by the total number of students enrolled, and we figure out what percent of the class was admitted ED.
So, now I’m going to go back up to the top, and I have kind of a fresh list, and there’s going to be schools in here we haven’t seen yet. The first one is Notre Dame. Notre Dame fills 82.2% of its class with Restrictive Early Action students. Restrictive Early Action is a little bit different from ED. You are not legally bound to accept the offer of admission, and you’re free to compare aid offers with all of your regular decision admissions. So, Notre Dame sets you free in that way. But if you apply REA to Notre Dame, you’re not allowed to apply SCEA to Harvard, for example, and you can’t apply ED to other private schools. And there may be some caveats to that, like Stanford, I know, has a caveat to their single choice early action, and they say if you need to apply early for a scholarship, like at USC, where you have to apply by the early action deadline to get a scholarship, they’ll let you apply early action so that you don’t lose that chance.
So, 82.2% is huge, but you can look over at their advantage, which is only 1.7. It doesn’t seem like a huge advantage, but that’s why I like to look at more than one data point, because sometimes the story comes out through one of the data points. Like here, 82.2% of the kids at Notre Dame got in early, which kind of tells me that you should maybe apply early. Continuing on in the list: Middlebury, Tulane, Clearmount McKenna, Pomona, NYU, Grinnell, Emory, Davidson, Barnard, Washington and Lee, Colgate, Wash U in St. Louis, and Colgate. At all these schools, 60% or more of the class is filled by people who applied early.
The bottom line is, do I recommend applying Early Decision? Absolutely. Are there some people for whom maybe it’s a little bit scary? Yeah, and I do have a video on when it’s a bad idea to apply early, which might help you make that decision. The other thing that I’ll say is that with financial aid, my best advice is to run a cost calculator and try to anticipate what it would cost you if they gave you the aid that they basically promise most students. You can also get on the internet, get on chat boards, get on Facebook groups, and ask people what the total cost of attendance was if they had particular financial situations, but those cost calculators are usually the best place to start. And again, you can get out of ED, and the way that you get out of ED is if they don’t offer you enough money. I had a student that I worked with who was a foreign student, so her parents had not saved money for college at all because they thought she would go to school in Europe, where she’s from. And then she got into an Ivy League university and realized that she couldn’t pay all this money. So, she petitioned the school, and they gave her the money she asked for. They made it work, and they negotiated it out. And now she’s at that Ivy League university, but you can turn it down if the reason is that you can’t afford it. You just can’t compare aid offers. And sometimes that plays into this situation.
I will also say that if you’re from an underrepresented background, schools are looking out for you more during that Regular Decision round because they know that some of you are going to be challenged to apply to at least a Restrictive Early Decision program. So, I will also say that please don’t give up hope if you can’t apply ED because your parents are too nervous about it and don’t know if you can afford it and you want to be able to negotiate on aid. There is some comfort in that, but again, I do recommend trying to apply early if you can. There are some schools where it doesn’t matter as much. Like for Howard, Baylor, University of Denver, and Fordham, for example, we don’t see a huge shift, and they’re not filling anywhere near the majority of their classes early.
I hope you guys found this blog informative and helpful!
Early Decision vs Regular Decision Admission Statistics
|College||ED %||RD % (may include EA non binding or restrictive plans when applicable)||ED/RD Advantage||ED/Enrolled %|
|Carnegie Mellon University||12.5||11.1||1.1||33.0|
|University of Pennsylvania||15.5||5.0||3.1||50.2|
|Duke University (2021)||16.4||4.7||3.5||47.5|
|Notre Dame (EA- restricted)||17.3||10.4||1.7||82.2|
|Washington University in St. Louis||26.2||9.2||2.8||60.2|
|New York University (2021)||27.8||13.8||2.0||66.9|
|Claremont McKenna College||29.5||7.5||3.9||68.0|
|Case Western Reserve University||32.3||27.3||1.2||22.7|
|Colby College (2021)||41.6||7.1||5.8||49.8|
|Washington and Lee University||41.7||14.5||2.9||57.8|
|University of Rochester||42.7||38.6||1.1||37.8|
|University of Virginia||45.2||17.3||2.6||27.6|
|William & Mary||49.7||32.3||1.5||37.8|
|University of Miami||56.7||17.6||3.2||41.0|
|Loyola Marymount University||61.0||40.9||1.5||18.6|
|University of Denver||62.1||77.9||0.8||8.5|
|George Washington University||66.1||48.2||1.4||25.4|
|Texas Christian University||70.4||55.3||1.3||24.6|
|Southern Methodist University||70.9||51.6||1.4||25.4|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||79.0||66.0||1.2||43.2|
|Santa Clara University||82.7||51.3||1.6||23.0|
|Tufts University||declined to release|
|Princeton||withheld SCEA admissions data|