Early decision is a college admissions option where a students can apply early to a college under the condition that if accepted, they will attend. No matter what, you must pay your way through that school. And no matter what, when you're accepted, you lose your options to explore other schools. Early decision is a successful program because it lessens the rush of regular college applications, and it guarantees a crop of highly interested students. Of course, this implies that the student is genuinely interested and not just looking for swift acceptance. However, sometimes students may have been pressured into applying early when they could have benefitted from spending more time considering options. For this reason, early decision is a dangerous alternative and the college admissions process would be better off without it.
Applying for early decision has infiltrated the college application process since the 1990s. At Dartmouth College there was a 30 percent increase in early-decision applications between 1992 and 1997. In 1997, Duke's applications for early decision increased by 11 percent, and Swarthmore's by 96 percent. Colleges have been accepting more and more students this way.
Early decision may pressure students into making decisions before they are ready. They need to think about the early-decision application in their junior year when they should be focusing on achieving top grades.
Other regrets may arise after applying, when students question if they are happy with their acceptance to that particular school. Whether they are unhappy with the curriculum, environment, or the fact they cannot get financial aid, some may wonder if they made the right choice to apply for early decision. With early-decision acceptance, one risk is that you have less bargaining power and colleges don't feel as obligated to provide aid. No matter what, you must pay your way. Once accepted, you are in and possibly have a ticket to the wrong school with no refunds.
One benefit of early decision is that no time, money, and energy need be wasted on other applications. But if you get senioritis, the college can withdraw your acceptance if they feel you're not putting in enough effort.
Who wants to go to a school for all the wrong reasons? The idea of early decision is still growing because not many people are aware of the negative effects; they apply for early decision to take the easy way out. But early decision should end because it's less likely students will slack off and if a student is sure that a certain college is right for them, they can put that little extra effort into their regular application.
Eliminating early decision would make people analyze their first-choice school more carefully rather than applying for early decision to the first school that will take them.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.