As colleges come to rely increasingly heavily on their Early Decision pool to fill their classes, as we’ve written about elsewhere, many have also sought to expand that pool by adding a second round of Early Decision, commonly called Early Decision 2 (ED2). At present, more than twenty top universities and fifty top liberal arts colleges offer Early Decision 2.
So, what is Early Decision 2? In most ways, it’s exactly what it sounds like: another Early Decision round. Whereas most Early Decision 1 (ED1) deadlines fall in October or November (typically November 1), the Early Decision 2 deadline at most schools is in January, on or just before the Regular Decision deadline (typically the first week in January).
Otherwise, the premise of ED2 is the same as ED1: if a student who applies Early Decision, 1 or 2, is admitted, they are bound to attend that college. This factor makes Early Decision students more appealing to colleges because they can maximize their yield (the percentage of admitted students who actually attend). Consequently, many colleges give a small (or even large!) bump to qualified applicants who apply Early Decision 1 or 2.
So why apply Early Decision 2 rather than Early Decision 1? For some students, the November deadline is simply too early; they may have athletic commitments, want to bring their grades up further before applying, or need more time to work on their applications. But for most students, Early Decision 2 simply provides a second chance for those who were deferred or rejected from their Early Decision 1 school to get the benefits of an Early Decision application. Having seen this increased interest in ED2, many colleges are beginning to offer it.
With that said, however, there are some key differences between ED1 and ED2. In particular, by the time ED2 rolls around, colleges have already filled a substantial portion of their freshman class with ED1 applicants—in some cases more than half. As such, although they would like to take ED2 applicants, they simply don’t have as much space to do so as they did in ED1.
Similarly, because of the timing, colleges can evaluate ED2 applicants within the wider context of their Regular Decision pool—its size, its strength, its diversity, and so forth. As a result, colleges that had a strong incentive to dig deeply into the ED1 pool, admitting applicants who might not be perfect but who excite them enough to want to lock them into their incoming class, can now see the full lay of the land and will thus feel less pressure to push ED2 over the finish line.
For those reasons, Early Decision 1 is still a more powerful card to play in the admissions process than Early Decision 2. Nevertheless, the uptick in colleges that offer the ED2 option mean that if you don’t get the result you’re hoping for in ED1, you still have a chance to take advantage of Early Decision, now at a growing number of schools! If you’d like to talk through strategic decisions like these with a knowledgeable professional, give us a call!
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