Early decision application and financial aid are probably two of the most confusing and (seemingly) complicated things for students when applying to college. The idea of entering into a binding contract with a school is terrifying, as is the prospect of not being able to afford the enormous cost of higher education. As January 1st is the first chance students have to fill out the FAFSA, anyone accepted early decision has absolutely no idea how much aid they will receive. While early decision may be a wise choice for some, it is only right for certain situations, and each individual applicant must really think about this serious commitment.
When early decision is right for you:
- First and foremost, you must be in love with this college and absolutely certain you would want to attend it. If you feel on the fence about it or also like another school, early decision is not the right choice for you.
- If you and your family have determined that you will most likely not receive any financial aid and will not need any aid.
- This is slightly more uncertain, but if you apply to a school that is known to have excellent financial aid that meets 100% of demonstrated need and has a large endowment, chances are your financial aid package will be generous enough to not cause too many problems. The only downfall of this is that you don’t have the opportunity to compare packages and possible merit-based scholarships from other schools.
When early decision is NOT right for you:
- If, like mentioned above, you are even slightly uncertain about the school. This college must be perfect for you. Any hesitation may make you regret your choice come spring when your classmates are receiving acceptance letters and get to compare financial aid packages and choose their college.
- If you need to compare financial aid packages. Early decision limits your ability to compare financial aid packages. Maybe the package you got from your early decision school was great, but you’ll never know if you could have gotten a better offer somewhere else.
With all this being said, try not to put too much stock in early decision applications. They may have slightly higher acceptance rates, but that can be due to a more qualified applicant pool than regular decision, and the fact that many recruited athletes apply early decision. While it can be a great opportunity for students who don’t have to worry about financial aid and are set on a particular school, it really isn’t for everyone. You are not missing out on anything, and will do just fine in regular admissions.