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Fact or Fiction: The Truth about Early Decision

October 27, 2021

Josh Levy ’94, Office of Admissions

As we’re approaching the end of October, it seems like the right time to offer you some thoughts on Early Decision. It’s just one of the many application plans that exist in the world of college admissions, and things can be confusing.

There are 4 main application plans. Here’s a simple explanation for each of them:

  • Early Decision: a binding early application plan for students who know that a particular school is THE PERFECT FIT for them. If you’re admitted, you’re expected to enroll. You typically hear from the school about a month after the application deadline.
  • Early Action: a non-binding early application plan. If you want to receive your admissions decision from a school early but still maintain the option to enroll elsewhere, Early Action is for you. You typically learn the decision on your application about a month after the application deadline.
  • Regular Decision: the plan that most students use to apply. You are interested in the school but you’re not yet sure that it’s your top choice. You may also want/need to compare financial aid awards. Decisions on these applications are released in late March and students have until May 1 to make their decision.
  • Rolling Admission: apply when you’d like and you’ll hear about a month later.

All have pros and cons—maybe I’ll talk about them in a later blog entry. For today, however, I’d like to set the record straight on Early Decision by playing a game of Fact or Fiction.

Fact or Fiction: I have to apply Early Decision somewhere.

Fiction. You should only apply Early Decision if you know that the school is the perfect fit for you. Don’t give in to peer pressure and apply ED just because all of your friends are. Do your research—visit schools (whether in-person or virtually), talk to your guidance/college counselor and parents, and make an informed choice. If you don’t find that “I-can’t-believe-how-amazing-this-place-is” college, the world is not going to end. You will find the right school for you.

Fact or Fiction: ED is only for the wealthy.

Fiction. Much ink has been spilled on this topic and the general consensus is that ED applicants tend to be wealthier and more advantaged in the college process. It makes sense—if you’re committing to a school, you have to know that you can afford it. At Oberlin, we want all students, regardless of their socio-economic status, to apply ED if they feel that Oberlin is the perfect school for them. We have three different ways for families to get a sense of how affordable Oberlin could be: the Net Price Calculator, MyinTuition, and an Early Financial Aid Estimate. ED is for everyone, not just families with means.

Fact or Fiction: ED improves your chances of getting in.

Fact. At some of the most well-known small liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States, ED acceptance rates are significantly higher than Regular Decision acceptance rates. Oberlin is no exception

The reality is that colleges and universities will admit a larger percentage of the ED applicants because we know that the students will enroll. They’re committing to us so we commit to them. Admitting students Regular Decision is very different—we hope that the students will enroll but there is nothing obligating them to do so, even if our school is their favorite.

Fact or Fiction: I won’t get in anywhere if I only apply RD.

Fiction. If you work with your guidance/college counselor to have a good list of schools, you will get in. You may sweat it out and not be admitted to every school that you had hoped, but you will get a thick envelope in the mail.

Fact or Fiction: I will receive less financial aid if I apply and am admitted ED.

Fact and Fiction—it depends on the school. Oberlin meets 100% of demonstrated financial need regardless of whether you apply Early or Regular. We want to make sure that Oberlin is affordable for you, so know that when you apply Early Decision, your need-based aid will be the same as if you applied Regular Decision. You’re automatically considered for merit scholarships and you’re guaranteed to receive the $10,000 Oberlin Commitment Scholarship as well.

Now that you know a bit more about Early Decision, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts about why we love ED:

  1. ED helps us form a strong core to the class. By late January, we know what about 35% of our entering class looks like. We see how amazing they are and it gets us excited to read more applications and find more fabulous prospective Obies.
  2. You can help your friends and future classmates make the right college choice. You’re done with your college search early but many of your classmates aren’t. Your energy and excitement for Oberlin spills over in waves and encourages others to make the same (right) choice that you did.
  3. We love being loved. It’s true—we’re vain. Knowing that we’re loved by students makes our heart go pitter-patter.

Good luck. We can’t wait to see your ED application soon.

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