Q: Is early decision admission to college a good idea, and how does early decision admission affect a student’s financial aid ability?
A: Early decision admission allows the student to apply early, typically in November, and receive an admission decision from the college of their choice much earlier than the usual spring notification date. Students are allowed to apply months before other applicants as long as they promise to attend the college, if admitted. Early decision admission can be a big temptation for students applying to highly competitive colleges, however, it is important for the student and/or their family to understand that early admission decision plans are binding, meaning the student agrees to attend the college if they are accepted and offered an adequate financial aid package. A student can apply to other colleges throughout the regular admission process, however they may only apply to one college for early admission decision, and if the early admission college accepts them, they must withdraw all other applications. Some colleges also offer Early Action Plans, which are similar to Early Decision Plans, however Early Action Plans are not binding.
If financial aid is a top priority for the student, they will need to take into consideration that early decision students do not have the option of comparing financial aid offers from other schools. There are also different opinions amongst college financial aid experts on how early decision admission may affect the student’s ability to negotiate their financial aid award package. However, if the student is admitted early, and finds that the financial aid awarded is not adequate, they do have the option to appeal the award. The rules regarding Early Decision Plans, Early Action Plans, and Financial Aid Awards can vary somewhat by college. It would be in each student’s best interest to check with your counselor, to make certain you understand your rights and obligations for your specific school and situation.