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Word of Early Decision and Early Action Has Students Buzzing

Word was trickling out last week to high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear early if they got in to their top choice college. So, it's time when lots of people are talking about Early Decision and Early Action and how it works.

Early Decision (a binding commitment) is offered by 22 percent of colleges and Early Action (not binding) is offered by 30 percent of colleges surveyed by the National Association of College Admission Counseling in 2011. Private colleges are much more likely than publics to offer ED policies. More-selective colleges are more likely to offer ED, while colleges with lower yield rates were more likely to offer EA.

After several years of growth, just 38 percent of colleges last year reported increases in ED applications, and 36 percent reported increases in ED admissions. EA continues to rise, with 72 percent of colleges reporting more EA applications over the past year, and 68 percent reporting increases in EA admissions, according to the NACAC survey.

The Daily Beast is reporting early-admission applications are up, but acceptance rates are down—painting an ever competitive picture of the process. Results are posted from 21 top colleges.

The Yale Daily News reports that the total number of early applications were down about 18 percent at Yale from the previous year, and acceptance rates rose slightly. Last week, Yale admitted 15.7 percent of its early-action applicants (675 of 4,304), up from 14.5 percent the year before.

The drop at Yale may be linked to competitors Harvard and Princeton reinstating EA policies this year, after a four-year stop in the practice. Harvard reportedly accepted 772 of 4,231 early applicants—about 18 percent. Princeton let in 21 percent or 726, or 3,443 early applicants.

Students who were passed over for ED or EA are often deferred, leaving them to linger through the process in the spring. Others are rejected outright.

For students who didn't get happy ED or EA news, they face the dilemma of whether or not to pin their hopes on one school again and try for Early Decision II. For more on that strategy, see my post from last month.

For those who got into their dream school, congrats. The college-search process is over. Enjoy the holidays—but don't distract your classmates too much who still have applications to finish by December 31. Before long, the weight of college applications will be lifted for everyone, and you can all bask in second-semester senior status. However, that doesn't mean letting up altogether: Colleges hate to do it, but they will revoke offers if your grades plummet before graduation.

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