Colleges with Early Decision

July 22, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Colleges with Early Decision

The Early Decision “card” is one of the applicant’s most potent strategic tools. No other strategic move will increase your chances of admission at a school that may be a hair out of reach more than this one.

In general, colleges that offer Early Decision grant significantly higher acceptance rates to early applicants than to those who apply during the standard application period. Dartmouth accepted 21 percent of ED applicants in the 2020-21 admissions cycle (Class of 2025), while Duke accepted 17 percent and Vanderbilt accepted 18 percent.

Compared to the general applicant pool’s acceptance rate, here are some colleges where applying early decision helps:

  • The Dartmouth percentage is 4.5 percent
  • Duke is 4.2 percent
  • Vanderbilt is 5.3 percent

Academic research has demonstrated that ED is equivalent to 100 SAT points. This makes sense; even the most prestigious colleges are competing for the best students.

Any applicant who uses Early Decision makes an irrevocable commitment to one school. These committed applicants are the antidote for admissions officers who lose sleep over yield rates (the percentage of accepted students who ultimately enroll).

Early decision could increase your chances of acceptance if you’re certain about where you want to attend college and have an impressive academic record. There are numerous early decision colleges in the United States where you can apply and receive an admissions decision before the majority of other students.

Male and female student leaning on a bookshelf.

However, not all universities offer incoming students’ early decision. In many states, there are no early decision colleges at all. Take a look at the following list:

Popular institutions with early decision policies include:

  • Colby College
  • Brown
  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Northwestern
  • University of Pennsylvania

The following schools offer both Early Decision I and Early Decision II deadlines:

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • American University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brandeis University
  • New York University
  • Pomona College
  • Smith College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Chicago
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wesleyan College

What is Early Decision I and II?

The most important aspect of both Early Decision I and II is submitting an application that will bind you to the institution if you are accepted.

You will sign an early decision agreement as part of your application that “binds” you to attend if admitted.

You might wonder what is the early decision I and II acceptance rate. They are typically two to three times higher than admission rates for Regular Decision at the same schools. For example, Northwestern’s overall acceptance rate is only 9%, but its early decision rate is closer to 25%. The increase at Johns Hopkins University is even greater, from 9 percent to 31 percent.

Group of University students lounging on the grass.

In addition, the admission rates for applicants to colleges with early decision such as Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, and Tufts University are multiple times the admission rates for regular decision.

Multiple factors contribute, but in general, yield rate and selectivity are the two most important:

Yield Rate: Colleges are extremely concerned with the proportion of admitted students who enroll (or matriculate).

By admitting a large number of students early decision, they can increase enrollment because a substantial portion of their incoming freshman class (those who applied ED) has a yield of one hundred percent.

This reduces the pressure on admissions offices to predict who will and will not attend.

Selectivity: Colleges prefer to reject more applicants than they admit in order to increase their selectivity and, consequently, their prestige.

By admitting a larger proportion of ED1 and ED2 applicants, the regular admission rate is lowered.

Today, Early Decision applicants fill nearly half of the spots at many selective schools. This means that there are now half as many spots for regular decision applicants as there were previously.

Early Decision can have a significant impact on the selectivity of a college. In the 1990s, the University of Chicago had admission rates above 40 percent and did not offer Early Decision. Now, it offers Early Decision 1 and 2, and its acceptance rate is below 6%.

Acceptance Rates: Although colleges with early decision are tight-lipped about data, evidence suggests that Early Decision 2 is not as effective as Early Decision 1 in boosting admission chances.

Due to the fact that schools have already admitted a significant number of students and are aware of the number of regular decision applicants, they rely less on Early Decision 2 to determine their desired yield and admission rates.

Nonetheless, applying ED2 significantly increases your likelihood of admission.

Briefly, ED2 is a second opportunity to submit an Early Decision application, whether you were denied admission to your first-choice school in ED1 or external factors prevented you from applying in ED1 (a sports schedule, poor first quarter grades, etc.).

In the former scenario, students will apply to different schools for both ED1 and ED2. Whether you prefer Early Decision I or II, you should most importantly look into a college where applying early decision helps.

When Are Applications For Early Decision Due?

Now, you are interested in early decision. So, when are applications for early decision due? In general, the majority of Early Decision deadlines fall around November 1.

However, do not rely on that. You must check the colleges with early decision’s website and confirm the exact date of their Early Decision deadline. If you miss the deadline, there is no recourse. You are no longer eligible for Early Decision and must apply during Regular Decision.

For Early Decision 1, the deadline is typically November 1, and admissions decisions are typically made by December 15, before the standard application deadline.

Thus, if you are accepted, you are finished! Enjoy the remainder of high school.

However, the deadline for Early Decision 2 is typically January 1 or 15.

This means that you must submit Regular Decision applications to the remaining schools on your list. If you are admitted under Early Decision 2 (typically around the 15th of your senior year), you will withdraw your other applications.

If you’re applying early decision, it’s safe to assume that you’re enthusiastic about attending your preferred school. To accomplish this, you must submit the strongest application possible. You may take a look at some popular colleges’ deadlines for ED:

Boston College Nov-01 Jan-01
Boston University Nov-01 Jan-04
Brandeis University Nov-01 Jan-01
Brown University Nov-01 N/A
Columbia University Nov-01 N/A
Cornell University Nov-01 N/A
Dartmouth College Nov-01 N/A
Duke University Nov-01 N/A
Emory University Nov-01 Jan-01
Johns Hopkins University Nov-01 Jan-03
New York University Nov-01 Jan-01
Northwestern University Nov-01 N/A
Tufts University Nov-01 Jan-04
University of Chicago Nov-01 Jan-04
University of Pennsylvania Nov-01 N/A
Vanderbilt University Nov-01 Jan-01
American University Nov-15 Jan-15
Bowdoin College Nov-15 Jan-05
Colby College Nov-15 Jan-01
Pomona College Nov-15 Jan-08
Smith College Nov-15 Jan-01
Wesleyan University Nov-15 Jan-01

How Does Early Decision Work?

You should start preparing for the SAT/ACT months, if not even a year, in advance.

If your early decision deadline is in November, your final chance to take the ACT or SAT will occur in September or October. You likely won’t be able to view your scores before deciding whether to send them to colleges at this time. To alleviate stress, you could take tests earlier and have your final scores by the end of your junior year.

Young looking towards an area of a room while holding his bag.

You could also ask your junior-year teachers for recommendations at the end of junior year, when their memories of your work will be fresh. You should ask your counselor and teachers for recommendations at least one month before your deadline. In most cases, requests must be made by October 1.

You should also give your high school between three weeks and one month’s notice for sending your transcript and any other official documents to colleges. You may be required to complete a form and pay a nominal fee.

Lastly, you should complete your personal essay and any additional application essays during the summer preceding your senior year. Personal essay writing is a process that requires ample time for brainstorming, drafting, receiving feedback, and revising.

You can spend the months of September and October completing your college applications, writing about your extracurricular activities, and proofreading your work. As long as you begin planning and preparing your application months before the early decision deadline, you should be fine.

To summarize, the following is a sample schedule on how does early decision work.

Early Decision I:

Step 1: Take the SAT or ACT early so that you have ample opportunities to retake it, if necessary.

You may take the exam in the spring of your sophomore year, the fall of your junior year, and the spring of your junior year.

If you move this schedule up, remember that your final opportunity to take the exam will be in the fall of your senior year.

Step 2: Request teacher recommendations at the conclusion of the junior year, or teacher and counselor recommendations by October 1st at the latest.

Step 3: Request the delivery of your high school transcript by October 1.

Depending on your institution, you may be required to complete a form and pay a nominal fee. Work on your personal essay and other essays throughout the summer and fall. In September and October, complete your application, making sure to edit for clarity and proofread for errors.

If you apply Early Decision II, you will have more options for SAT/ACT test dates.

You may also include your senior midterm grades on your transcript.

If you are unsatisfied with your academic record and test scores and believe you could present a stronger application in January, waiting for this later deadline, if it is available, may be a good option.

What Is the Difference Between Early Action and Early Decision?

Briefly, to answer the question of what is the difference between early action and early decision, the primary distinction is whether or not you are permitted to consider other schools once your admissions decision is made.

  • Early action: If you apply to a school via early action, you will find out if you’ve been accepted before the majority of other students, but you are not bound to attend that school.

You may instead continue to apply to and consider other schools of interest.

  • Early decision: If you apply to a school using early decision, you will find out if you have been accepted earlier than the majority of other students, but you will also be obligated to attend that school.

Although both of these terms contain the word “early,” it is important to understand the distinctions between them when deciding which is the best option for you.

Why use early action?

You have a list of colleges with early decision, but you also want to know which ones will admit you. Early action could be the best option for you.

Early action gives you more time to weigh your options with the assurance that a spot is reserved for you at the institution of your choice. Early action may be a good fit for you if you are:

  • Interested in exploring your options; and
  • Motivated to gain admission to a selective college.
  • Desire an early admissions decision notification
  • You need more time to determine which school is the best fit for you.

Why utilize early decision?

Early decision could be the best option for high school students who have their eyes on the prize and know exactly which college they wish to attend.

Young woman typing in a table.

Early decision notifies the school of your intent to enroll and lets you know if you’ve been accepted to the school of your dreams if you have eliminated all other options. Early decision may be right for you if you:

  • Are certain about which school you wish to attend; and
  • Desire an early admissions decision notification
  • Are willing to commit to the institution to which you are applying.

As this is a binding decision, it is also important to note that when applying early decision to a school, you should not apply early decision to any other schools.

In the event that you are not accepted to your dream school, you could apply to other schools through early action or regular admissions deadlines as a safety net.

At first glance, it may appear that students who apply early have a significant advantage over those who apply regular decision. However, it is important to keep in mind that other factors influence these numbers.

For instance, students who apply to ED are more likely to match the profile of students who attend the school because they have designated it as their top choice. Or, because early applicants must submit their applications before their peers, it is also possible that these students are more futuristic than others.

However, even when considering the aforementioned theories, the fact remains that students who apply early have an advantage. While ED admission rates are decreasing, just a few years ago, ED applicants had admission rates that were 10 to 12 percent higher than RD applicants.

2020–2021 Early Decision and Early Action Acceptance Rates

Not all schools make their early decision and early action acceptance rate data available to the public. However, you may choose a college where applying early decision helps as shown below. These are the top 20 national universities according to US News’ lists of the best schools for the 2020–21 admissions cycle.

School Early Decision Acceptance Rate Early Action Acceptance Rate Overall Acceptance Rate
Brown University 14.6% N/A 7.7%
Dartmouth University 24.89% N/A 9.2%
Duke University 21% N/A 7.7%
Harvard University N/A 7.9% 5%
Johns Hopkins University 21% N/A 9%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology N/A 4.7% 7.3%
Rice University 18.0% N/A 9%
University of Notre Dame N/A 24.2% 19%
University of Pennsylvania 15.6% N/A 9%
Vanderbilt University 24.1% N/A 11.6%
Yale University N/A 10.9% 6.5%

How Many Early Decision Can You Apply To?

Since Early Decision is binding, you cannot in good conscience apply to multiple colleges using this application method. To answer how many early decision can you apply to: just one. If you applied to multiple colleges with early decision and are discovered, both schools may withdraw their acceptance offers.

Typing an essay using a laptop.

However, you can apply to additional colleges using Early Action.

You are also permitted to submit applications to other schools if you are wait-listed or rejected. If you are admitted to your Early Decision school, you must withdraw your applications from all other schools.

About 450 colleges offer early decision or early action programs, and some offer both. Some colleges offer a non-binding option known as single-choice early action, which prohibits applicants from submitting ED or EA applications to other colleges.

ED plans have been criticized for being unfair to students from low-income families because they do not allow them to compare financial aid offers. This may give applicants from families with more financial resources an unfair advantage.

Below are the typical Early Decision procedures:

  • Apply early (typically in November) to the college of your choice.
  • Receive the college’s admission decision well before the typical notification date (usually by December).
  • Agree to attend the college if accepted and offered an adequate financial aid package, as determined by the family.
  • Apply early decision to only one institution
    • You may apply to other colleges using standard admissions procedures.
  • If accepted by ED, all other applications must be withdrawn.
  • Send a nonrefundable down payment well before May 1.

If you would like to learn more about the best colleges with early decision, do not hesitate to contact us. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. On average, 75% of our students are admitted to an Ivy League university, Stanford, MIT, UChicago, and Caltech, one of the highest track records in the industry. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.

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