Choosing Between Two Early Decision Schools

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As summer draws towards its end and students begin preparing for their return to high school, seniors are starting to look to their future, and seeing which colleges appeal to them. Many students will decide that applying to college Early Decision is right for them, in order to boost their chances of securing a spot at their dream school. For some, however, applying ED presents a whole new challenge.

Some students are stuck between two choices; each equally appealing, each offering an ED application. How can they possibly choose just one of these schools to apply to? In this article, we’ll go over how to compare colleges you are considering applying to ED, and what to do if you are caught between two options. First, though, we’ll briefly discuss why students apply ED at all.

Why Apply Early Decision?

Applying ED is the single easiest way to increase your chances of admission to a given school. While you still need grades and test scores which are competitive, the number of students who apply ED is far smaller, and many schools admit half of each incoming class through Early Decision. Thus, admissions rates for students who apply ED are often four or five times greater than those who apply Regular Decision.

Since ED is a binding commitment, colleges know you are serious about attending. Not only do they like to see this level of enthusiasm, admitting the bulk of their students ED ensures that a school will have a higher yield rate. The yield rate is the percentage of admitted students who end up attending a school and is a point of pride for admissions officers.

While applying ED is in no way a guarantee of acceptance, it does increase your odds of admission. 

Comparing Two Early Decision Schools

Of course, some students have more than one dream school or simply aren’t certain at all where they want to apply ED. This can lead to a paralyzing feeling of indecision or a fear of missing out on a great opportunity. Fortunately, there are ways for students to make this decision with confidence.

The first way is to compare the two schools you are deciding between in-depth. Every school is unique, and even the schools which seem incredibly similar to the point of confusion (looking at you Boston College and Boston University) have vast differences. We created the university guides, for this reason, to help students research colleges in-depth, and see what each one has to offer.

When researching a school, you should try to find everything about it that interests you. What classes do they offer? Do they have the exact major or minor you want? Where are they located? What is campus culture like? What’s the social scene like at the school? Do they have clubs or sports you want to participate in?

You should research both academic and non-academic features of a school when comparing them in this way. MIT and Caltech are both great engineering programs but are very different in terms of location and campus culture. Academics are the point of college, but they aren’t the whole experience; you should examine every aspect of a college if you are stuck deciding between two.

The second way to compare schools is to look at where you have the better odds of getting in. Schools release the average GPA and test scores of admitted students each year, and you can compare these to your own. If your scores are at or above the average, you have a better chance of getting in.

Conversely, if your scores are too far below the average, even applying ED may not boost your application enough to earn you a spot. If your scores are much more in line with one of the schools you’re considering than the other, you should focus your efforts on that school.

Finally, you should consider how much work each application will take. While the personal statement goes out to every school, some schools ask for a lot more supplemental essays than others. Case Western, for instance, does not have any supplemental essays, while Carnegie Mellon asks for three. While the amount of work you need to do may not be the deciding factor, it should still be considered when you make your decision.

Consider ED II

Some schools offer a second round of Early Decision, creatively named Early Decision II. We’ve discussed this in an article before, but it can also provide a solution if you are caught between two schools to apply to ED. If one of the schools also allows you to apply ED II, you can apply to the other ED, and should that not work out, apply to the first ED II.

We should note, however, that ED II does not provide the same boost to your admissions chances that applying ED does. While it does still improve your overall chances of admission, the boost is far smaller than the one conferred by applying ED.

Early Decision vs Early Action

There is also a chance that you are stuck deciding between two schools, one of which offers ED, and one which only offers Early Action. While EA allows you to submit an application early, it is non-binding and does not confer the same admissions boost as applying Early Decision. 

You can of course apply to both schools, but remember that ED is binding, and if both offer you a place, you will be obligated to attend the school you applied to ED. If you are equally happy attending either school, then we suggest applying to both, as the boost given by ED applications is not something to pass up lightly. If, however, the EA school is your first choice, consider if applying to a different school ED is worth it.

Final Thoughts

Deciding between two schools for an ED application is a challenge. This is likely to be the largest decision you’ve made up to this point; it’s important to acknowledge as much. This can feel like a lot of pressure or overwhelming, and it is important to take some time to breathe and consider all your options.

If you want help evaluating your options for ED schools, or any other aspect of the application process, don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation. We’ve done a great deal of research on different schools and programs, and are always happy to share our knowledge with students.

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