Early Decision More Popular — and More Controversial — Every Year

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For most people, November means turkey, raking leaves, and the start of the Christmas song onslaught. For anxious/overachieving high school students, though, November is the season for early decision applications.

For those of us who are lucky enough not to have to worry about these things anymore, or who don’t have any nervous teenagers in the household, a bit of explaining might be in order. When students apply early decision, they are declaring the school they apply to is their first choice, and promising to enroll if accepted. You can only pick one school to apply to early decision… as opposed to more flexible options, such as early action.

There are plenty of arguments against early decision programs — they stress kids out too much, favor the rich, and pressure kids to make decisions before they’re ready to — which is one reason that Harvard suspended its early decision plan since 2007. This year they reinstated it, and got a flood of applications — 4,245 hopeful high schoolers, to be exact… or more than double the anticipated freshman class size of 1,660.

Locally, Johns Hopkins also saw a significant jump in early decision applicants (7.64 percent more than last year). Check out early decision stats for Harvard, Hopkins, and all sorts of other schools here.

What’s your take on early decision — a stress-fest, or a helpful way for serious students to make their preferences known?



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  1. We still had plenty of late October college application stress, but there were no ED applications. Both University of Maryland College Park and Baltimore County have a November 1st application deadlines to be considered for scholarships and honors programs.
    My take on ED is pretty negative – there are too many colleges with good programs to label a single one as your favorite to the point that you don’t care what sort of financial aid package they might give you. Of course applying to UM schools and worrying about financial aid aren’t considerations if you are independantly wealthy. We’re not.

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