The risk of early decision

Olivia Harden, Opinions Editor

In order for me to write this column, I had to think about 17-year-old me. Thankfully, I am a completely different person than I was my senior year of high school.

That partially has to do with my time at Chapman, but Chapman wasn’t my first-choice school, and there’s no way I could have known that my journey here would lead me to finding myself. There is still no way to know that I made the “right” choice by attending Chapman. But what I do know is that there is no way I would have been informed or confident enough in my choice to make the right decision when applying in the fall of my senior year. The May 1 deadline to commit gave me time to compare my options.

The Office of Admissions has just added early decision as an admissions option for prospective students of the university. The benefits to students applying early decisions have been proven to be high; 20 percent of Ivy League students who applied early decision in fall 2015 were admitted, while the regular decision admissions rate was 6.77 percent, according to the website Top Tier Admissions. However, the difference between early action and early decision programs also changes who is able to apply for them.

As a high school senior, there is no way I would have picked Chapman as my early decision application. I was not privy to knowing what Chapman would have to offer me and I know that my mind changed several times between my acceptance letter in late December and my decision to attend on May 1.

The difference between early decision and early action admission options is that early decision admission is binding, according to the College Board. If you are accepted, you have to withdraw all other applications from other colleges and universities. Most often, the only way out of a binding early decision contract is a financial package that might not fit your family’s needs.

It’s fair to note that the number of early decision applications across the country, on average, is rather small. In fall 2015, of the schools that offered early decision, only 6 percent of applications to those schools were submitted early decision, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

An early decision applicant in high school must be a special kind of senior, one who is confident in his or her choice of school and is financially able to afford it.

Early decision is inconsiderate to prospective students who are dependent on comparing financial aid packages from multiple colleges. Students who are not dependent on financial aid to afford a private institution will have no problem signing on the dotted line. While you can be released from an early decision agreement if you are not financially able to afford it, because you can only apply to one school early decision and if accepted you must commit well before May 1, there is no window to make the right financial decision.

Chapman is not getting rid of its early action program, so students will still also have the opportunity to apply early without a binding agreement. I applied early action because it ultimately provided me with the most benefit. I would have the opportunity to compare my financial aid from other institutions, lull on my decision and ultimately make a smart choice for my secondary education. The admission caps for these two programs is going to vary, so understanding the risks associated with early decision application is necessary.

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