06 October 2018

The Early Admission Advantage (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in Early Admission, Class of 2023

PART III: Putting Early Admission Strategies to Work

targets2In Part II of this series developed an early admission strategy based on your competitiveness as an applicant, your college list, and your strength of commitment to the top schools on your list.  If you're a competitive applicant with strong qualifications, we recommend that you:

  • Take full advantage of Early Action for all the schools on your list
  • Apply Restrictive Early Action to your top school or when the restrictions don't inhibit your ability to take advantage of early admission programs at higher ranked schools 
  • Apply Early Decision I when you are strongly committed to attending your top choice school and have no concerns about affordability
  • Apply Early Decision II if you have been denied admission to your top choice school, you're strongly committed to attending this ED II school as your next best option, and have no concerns about affordability

With this early admission strategy in place, let's put it to work in Part III against a couple of hypothetical applicants.   


Part III

In this blog post we'll apply our early admission strategy to a couple of hypothetical cases.


Case 1

Jeff is a rising senior based in California in the top 10 percent of his class and good test scores.  Based on his research and a bunch of campus visits, he's narrowed his college list down to eight schools in the following order: 

RankSchoolAdmit %Category
1 Northwestern 9% Reach
2 Colgate 28% Target
3 UCLA 16% Reach
4 Case Western 35% Target
5 UC San Diego 34% Target
6 Boston University 25% Reach
7 UC Davis 44% Target
8 UC Merced 72% Likely

Jeff is very much committed to Northwestern and Colgate as his top and second choices and is looking for ways to improve his chances for getting in.  After looking at the admissions options for each school, he discovers that Northwestern offers ED I, Colgate offers ED I  and ED II, Case Western offers EA, ED I and ED II and Boston University offers ED I and ED II. 

RankSchoolNon-binding Early ActionRestrictive Early ActionEarly Decision IEarly Decision II
1 Northwestern     Yes  
2 Colgate     Yes Yes
3 UCLA        
4 Case Western Yes   Yes Yes
5 UC San Diego        
6 Boston University     Yes Yes
7 UC Davis        
8 UC Merced         

Jeff develops his strategy using the principles outlined by College Kickstart.

Step 1: Early Admission Strategy for Northwestern

Since Jeff is both a competitive applicant and strongly committed to attending if accepted, he plans to apply EARLY DECISION I if there is a meaningful admissions advantage.  After sifting through the admissions data, he confirms that by applying early the admission rate rises from 7% (regular decision) to 26% (early decision).  Assuming he has no financial aid issues, it's a no brainer.

Step 2: Early Admission Strategy for Colgate

Jeff is also strongly committed to Colgate as his second choice if he is denied admission to Northwestern.  Since he's a competitive applicant at Colgate and committed to attending if accepted, Jeff's plan is to apply EARLY DECISION II.  In the event that Jeff's application to Northwestern is deferred, he'll simply submit his application regular decision to keep his options open there.  In looking at Colgate's admission statistics, Jeff sees that by applying early decision to Colgate the admission rate rises from 26% (regular decision) to 44% (early decision).  

Step 3: Other Early Action Opportunities on List

Finally, Jeff looks for other non-binding early action opportunities to generally enhance his odds of getting into one of the schools on his list.  The #4 school on his list, Case Western, offers such an opportunity.  Since Jeff is a competitive applicant here and the early action admit rate is 48% vs. 35% overall,  he opts to apply EARLY ACTION.    

In summary, Jeff used the early admission strategies suggested in this series to enhance his admission odds in three ways:

  • By applying Early Decision I to Northwestern, his top choice
  • By applying Early Decision II to Colgate, his second choice, if denied admission to Northwestern
  • By applying Early Action to Case Western, his fourth choice

If the news is good from Northwestern, he's done and avoids having to complete and pay for his appications to Colgate, Case and Boston University over the holidays.  If he's denied at Northwestern but admitted to Colgate, he's also done. If the news is good from Case Western, he'll be able to avoid having to work on lower ranked applications in his list over winter break (Boston University) and save Mom and Dad an extra credit card swipe to boot.

 


Case 2

Now let's introduce our overachiever, Jane.  Jane is near the top of her class with outstanding grades and test scores.  Her parents have worked hard to save for her college education, so financial aid is not a consideration.  After extensive research and college touring, she's narrowed down her search to the following schools in rank order:

RankSchoolAdmit %Category
1 Duke 9% Reach
2 Stanford 5% Reach
3 Notre Dame 18% Reach
4 Grinnell 29% Target
5 Santa Clara 48% Target
6 Scripps 33% Target
7 Occidental 46% Target
8 UMass Amherst 58% Likely

Jane is strongly committed to Duke as her top choice and looking for ways to improve her chances of getting in.  After reviewing the admissions options for each school, she learns that Duke offers ED I, Stanford and Notre Dame offer Restrictive Early Action, Grinnell, Scripps and Occidental offer ED I and ED II, Santa Clara offers Early Action and ED I and UMass Amherst offers Early Action. 

RankSchoolNon-binding Early ActionRestrictive Early ActionEarly Decision IEarly Decision II
1 Duke     Yes  
2 Stanford    Yes    
3 Notre Dame    Yes    
4 Grinnell     Yes Yes
5 Santa Clara  Yes   Yes  
6 Scripps     Yes Yes
7 Occidental     Yes Yes 
8 UMass Amherst  Yes       

Like Jeff, Jane develops her strategy using the principles outlined by College Kickstart. 

Step 1: Early Admission Strategy for Duke

Since Jane is both a competitive applicant and strongly committed to attending if accepted, she plans to apply EARLY DECISION I assuming there's a meaningful admissions advantage.  She confirms that by applying early the admission rate rises from 7% (regular decision) to 24% (early decision).   

Step 2: Early Admission Strategy for Stanford

Jane has Stanford as her second choice.  Though her admission chances might be enhanced by applying restrictive early action, this option is not available since she is applying early decision I to Duke.  Jane's strategy for Stanford is to apply REGULAR DECISION.  

Step 3: Other Early Action Opportunities on List

Jane then looks for other non-binding early action opportunities to generally enhance the odds of getting into one of the schools on her list.  The #5 school on her list, Santa Clara University, and the #8 school on the list, UMass Amherst, both offer non-binding early action options. Since Jane is a competitive applicant at both schools and early admit rates are materially better than regular decision admit rates (59% vs 41% at Santa Clara and 76% vs 45% at UMass Amherst), Jane decides to apply to both schools EARLY ACTION. Note too that while Notre Dame offers Restrictive Early Action, Jane is unable to apply this way because she is applying ED I to Duke.

In summary, Jane employed the early admission strategies suggested in this series to increase her admissions odds in two ways:

  • By applying Early Decision I to Duke, her top choice
  • By applying Early Action to Santa Clara and UMass Amherst

If the news is good from Duke, she's done--no need for finishing up her essays for Stanford, Notre Dame, Grinnell, Scripps and Occidental over the holidays.  If she's denied at Duke but there's good news from Santa Clara, she'll still be able to avoid completing her Scripps and Occidental applications over the winter break.

This example also illuminates how applying early to one school (Duke) can restrict you from applying early to others (Stanford and Notre Dame).  That's why it's always important to consider order of interest to make sure you're prioritizing appropriately.

 


Case 3

Now let's assume Jane has returned from her campus visits not feeling particularly strong about any of the schools on her list and would rather see what her options are before making a decision.  

Step 1: Early Admission Strategy for Duke

Jane is a competitive applicant but NOT strongly committed to attending if accepted; in this case it makes no sense to apply early decision.  Jane's correct choice is to apply REGULAR DECISION.  

Step 2: Early Admission Strategy for Stanford

Jane is interested in Stanford as her second choice.  Because she has not applied ED I to Duke, applying restrictive early action to Stanford is now a possibility.  In researching admission rates, Jane learns that the admission rate for applying restrictive early action is 10% vs  4% for regular decision.  Because Jane is a strong applicant, she opts to apply RESTRICTIVE EARLY ACTION.  

Step 3: Other Early Action Opportunities on List

Jane then looks for other non-binding early action opportunities for consideration.  Although Notre Dame has a restrictive early action option and Santa Clara offers an early action option, neither can be used because Stanford's REA policy prohibits applying early action to private schools.  However, Stanford does permit Jane to apply to public schools early action.  As such, Jane can apply early action to the #8 school on her list, UMass Amherst. Because the early action rate of 76% is much higer than the regular decision rate of 45%, Jane applies to UMass Amherst EARLY ACTION. 

This scenario shows how much early admission strategies can change based on the order of a list, the degree to which you are committed to attending an institution, and the terms and conditions of the early admission plans offered by each school in a student's list. 


Summary 

In this series of blog posts we've seen how early admission programs can meaningfully improve your odds of success and potentially reduce overall effort and cost in the process.  We've touched on the fundamentals, explored how each early admission option can be used, and applied these to several hypothetical cases.  

No doubt, early admission can get complicated very quickly, but it's absolutely worth your undivided attention. For those of you looking for an easier way to demystify the process, consider taking a look at College Kickstart, which automatically recommends an early admission strategy that is both appropriate and within the rules based on your list and several other considerations.  It's easy to use, very effective, and available for less than the cost of an application.

Good luck!