As a parent who also happens to work in college admissions I often hear conversations that make my heart sing and others where I want to cringe. When it comes to Early Decision, extreme conversations seem to rule.
We had a student stop by the office last week. She had her father come back to campus for her second visit because she wanted to show her dad why she is so excited about applying early to Tufts. She had already taken the tour – but took another with her dad; participated in an information session, read blogs and information regarding her academic areas of interest, and has been in touch with current students. She just “knows” Tufts is where she wants to be. This young woman has taken the lead; she has researched her options, done her homework, and took it upon herself to convince her parents of her choice to apply early. (SING!)
On the other hand, I have adult friends who say “We are applying early decision, we just don’t know where yet.” I have also spoken with parents absolutely convinced their son must apply early or he will have no chance of being admitted. Please remember -“we” are not going to college. Your daughter or son is heading off to college. As parents we can live vicariously through our children but not tether ourselves to them. It is the time to let your son take flight and soar. Our job, as parents of Early Decision applicants or Regular Decision applicants, is to be sure to articulate any non-negotiable restrictions; like geography – distance from home, financial commitments – how much the family can afford to put toward college expenses, etc. Then we need to take a deep breath and step back.
Has your daughter done all of her research to be comfortable applying early? Remember, Early Decision is a commitment that the student makes indicating that if they are admitted they will enroll. They will be here for four years-- are they ready to make that pledge? (See Eddie Pickett’s Blog). As a parent if you find that you are the one conducting the college search and your daughter has no “skin in the game” then she is probably not ready to apply early decision. If your son hasn’t found a school that matches his academic interests, extracurricular passions and has a personal ‘vibe’ that clicks, then ED may not happen. It’s OK for high school seniors to find multiple schools that work for them. Counselors and colleagues may be urging your daughter to apply early ‘somewhere’ to increase her chances. That may be well and good, what happens if she doesn’t want to attend that Early Decision School when April rolls around? Most schools are very forthcoming regarding how selective the Early Decision process is. At Tufts, we enroll approximately one third of our class through Early Decision I and Early Decision II; our admission profile remains consistent from Early Decision to Regular Decision. There will be some schools that honestly say it is easier to be admitted through ED (That isn’t the case at Tufts). This is a useful piece of information to have, but it shouldn’t be the primary factor in your child’s decision making. The most important factor should be if your son found his academic soul mate: a college that feels like home with students and faculty who will engage and challenge him in healthy and productive ways.
As parents we want to make life easier for our children. When it comes to Early Decision, the student needs to be the motivating force. If your daughter or son is yelling from the rooftops that they have found their academic home, then ED may be in their future. If not, don’t pressure – be supportive and be reassured that your child will find her way through the application process.
Let me know if you are struggling with the Early Decision dilemma!