A pandemic outcome: early decision applications likely to continue to decline

Posted by Neal Schwartz on November 12, 2020

Early Action to Regular Decision

College students have long been tempted by applying Early Decision, where upon acceptance, a student agrees to attend a college or university. Early Decision is a great option to reinforce demonstrated interest for students that are very confident with their top college choice and chances of admission. College admissions also use Early Decision to get a head start filling their classes. However, with the sanitary crisis impacting college in an unprecedented way, students seem less willing to go Early Decision.

Although the Early application season is still in progress for some schools and the data is yet to be tabulated, the initial view this year is that due to the pandemic and the issues outlined, there is a continuance of the decline in both Early Decision and Early Action applications. This is also tied to the drop in student applications.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, applications dropped 8% through November 2nd. (Many Early applications have a deadline of November 1st).  In our area, where approximately two-thirds to three-quarters of seniors would have typically applied Early Decision to a school, the trend is that those numbers have dropped considerably.

One of the principal reasons is the chaos of the SAT and ACT testing season last spring, which led many colleges to go “test optional,” in which students were not required to submit scores. This motion made some students uncomfortable, uncertain that their academic grades and extracurriculars would be enough to get them over the edge. And those students with good test scores might have been prioritized, as there was another admissions factor available for consideration.

CollegeAcceptance hug from mom

Another reason for the decline in Early Decision interest is because students are no longer able to visit campuses. The campus tour, for many, can be the deciding factor for prospective students, because it is the one chance to see a genuine “day in the life” of a student at the college or university. But without this, students are increasingly reliant on the school websites and virtual tours, which simply do not provide the marketing strength of the in-person tour. This change has left many students unable to decide, unable to achieve that “best fit” moment. Add this all together with many colleges shifting to 100% online education, and the decision process becomes all that more difficult.

Still, there are other factors making students hesitant to commit early.  Specifically, there are family financial situations that have changed and concern for some schools that face financial challenges.  For those that depend on their high school counselors, those sessions have been impacted due to school operations--adjustments to school schedules, etc.  The bottom line, is that there are just not as many opportunities to gain comfort, support and guidance through what is always an extensive and life-changing process. 

Even though many factors in the changing college landscape are leading to a critical moment of indecision among college students, they will need to increasingly be reliant on other sources of information and guidance.

Is your student feeling lost in the application or college choice process? Our team is here to help. With one-on-one counseling, we’re primed to find the best college fit for students, even despite the current challenging circumstances. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation today!


Best Regards,

Neal Schwartz, Owner

College Planning of Westchester



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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, Guidance Counselors, virtual tours


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