Highly selective college admissions, it’s an early event.


Apr 22, 2018 Bully Pulpit 0 Comments

This article is teaching me nothing new. I’ve been telling my high achieving students for several years now that admissions to uber- selective colleges is an “early event.” That’s the term I use. As a matter of fact, as regular decisions roll in this week, I’m a little bored, and I feel a bit left out of the party since 95% of my students have known the majority of their college decisions since January. For unhooked students, it’s incredibly difficult to get into a college with under a 12% admit rate if they apply regular decision. Applying early is a “hook” you can give yourself. And if you don’t…. good luck. Harvard has a 14% admit rate early action. That’s not even so bad if you think about it. But the regular decision rate is about 3%. Read the article. The statistics are interesting….and crazy. College admissions is not defined by a group of sage admissions folks reading essays and picking the best students based on student attributes and accomplishments. It’s strategic. Not only are the sheer numbers completely different for early VS regular decisions, we’re also dealing with the fact that colleges craft classes to answer the demands of all facets of the university. And they have to tidy up their classes in the RD round. Think about it, they have to answer to the financial aid office, the athletic department, the alumni people, the art history department, the diversity office who want everything from geographic diversity to an even gender ratio, the orchestra, the Board of Trustees, the development office, and on and on and on. All of these segments of the university weigh down on the admissions office to meet their unique needs. In the early rounds, admissions offices do have more flexibility to choose students who are simply a good fit for their institutions. (Essay shows depth, admit.) During the regular round, when colleges have about 10 times more applicants for roughly the same spots in the class, they have to make sure all the departments and factions of the university are happy. Very high achieving students need to apply early and be mentally prepared not to get into their other most-highly-selective colleges to which they apply regular decision. Sometimes they do get in, but they better like that next level down in admissibility or they’ll be out of luck.

And don’t get me started on how this is unfair for students who can’t afford to apply ED. Needy students can somewhat predict their financial aid using Net Price Calculators and discussing their situations ahead of time with financial aid offices. If they have guidance, it can work out for them to apply ED because the aid policies really are great, and predictable. Wealthy kids don’t need to worry. But kids in the middle class can be squeezed out of the option of applying ED because they probably won’t get enough financial aid, and they MUST compare offers. I see if affect their admission offers every time.

So students, get over the idea that you don’t want to commit by November to your favorite college. You’re going to have to pick a favorite by May 1 anyway, you might as well get your head around this decision in time to apply early– IF you can afford to. If you don’t, there most likely won’t be a decision to make regarding an uber-selective college anyway. yikes…..


Leave a Reply