Colleges Move to Early Decision; BC goes ED

Julia Tran, Staff Writer

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Big changes are coming next year for the Class of 2020! Especially for RHS students, who recite Boston College, Northeastern University, and/or Boston University on their college lists like a parrot asking for crackers. One of these three schools recently made a big announcement that will change how students apply to their school. Boston College is getting rid of their Early Action program in favor of Early Decision (ED).

 

Applying early is a great way for students to hear about their college decisions early, and avoid the stress that comes with a long wait for Regular Decision (RD). Generally, RD deadlines are in early January, usually January 1st, and students hear back in March. Early deadlines are usually in early November and students hear back by December break. There are two types of Early plans: Early Action and Early Decision. And although the difference between these two is night and day, it’s easy to confuse them. Early Action is non-binding; if you’re accepted, you don’t have to go. ED is more akin to signing a blood contract. Unless your family shows extreme financial strain, you’re going…or else.

 

BC’s switch to Early Decision means anyone accepted to BC early is going. The Early Decision program consists of two dates: Early Decision 1 applications due November 1 with a decision notification by December 15, and Early Decision 2 applications due January 1 with a February 15 notification. Of course, students can still apply Regular Decision by January 1 with a decision by April 1. BC isn’t the first to make the switch, and more colleges are making the move to ED, with implications for future applicants.

 

The major concern for ED students is that your college is determined before you receive financial aid information. There’s this risk that even if you get in, you might not be able to afford it. According to John L. Mahoney, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, this change “will allow us to attract the best students, knowing we are their top choice.” But what he fails to say is it will also allow them to get the most paying students. Kids who apply to ED are confident they can afford the school’s tuition. This leaves lower-income students waiting until Regular Decision to apply, no matter how much they want to go to BC, how qualified they are or how well they’d fit in.

 

Applying ED generally increases chances of admission. Of course, we have to consider that students who apply early are usually on the dot with their recommendations, college essay, Common App, any supplements the school requires, and…probably their lives too. They feel more confident and qualified enough to apply early, not taking or needing that extra time to retake SATs, improve grades, or revising their essay. But ED also has a smaller applicant pool, so admissions officers will compare your application to less people, and applying ED shows great interest in the school. No matter what the reason may be (admissions officers could just be bored of reading applications by RD and need “a bit more” to be truly impressed), many prestigious schools get a large chunk of their freshmen classes from ED.  

 

At first, it may not seem like a big deal that BC is moving to ED. Well-qualified lower-income students can just wait a few months and apply Regular. However, this switch could harm these students who miss the opportunity to be accepted early and who may miss the possibility for admission. They worked hard and finished early, yet financial barriers delay that acceptance letter. All the time, students hear about colleges wanting diversity, craving it like I do a burrito from Monte Cristo. But only having an ED program AND accepting a relatively high percentage of students from that program is a combination that encourages wealthy students to apply and encourages their admissions over lower income students. This is not to call BC a hypocrite for the switch. BC is actually one of the few private institutions who are need-blind, meeting the full demonstrated need for all students. Props to them. (I just saved RHS students from being blacklisted by BC.)

So, RHS, when applying to colleges early, know the difference between Early Action and Early Decision. Be cautious. Stay on track. Ideally, one day, college would be free for everyone, so acceptances could be entirely based on merit and also because paying 70k a year is ridiculous.