Writer’s Block: To E.D Or Not To E.D…That Is The Question

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By Corinne Wnek

This is the time of madness and delirium. Halloween is over, but the lunacy continues. I’m talking about one of the busiest times of the year for high school counselors and advisors, the college application season. Just because I will not need to adjust the picture on my flat screen TV doesn’t mean that I’m not in the outer limits of sanity these days.

I am up to my eyeballs in work as I feverishly try to meet all kinds of deadlines for completion of my student’s college applications and the required counselor letter of recommendation. Welcome to the world of admission to college under the ‘early decision’ plan. For those of you who have applied to college in the sixties, seventies or eighties, you will need to updated. For those who have no idea about early admission plans, well, this is right up there with last week’s cavalcade of frightening made-for-TV movies.

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The process these days for gaining admission to a competitive college usually kicks off in the junior year of high school. Now in many school districts with which I am familiar, this process can begin a few years earlier with parents wanting to make sure they have chosen the right kindergarten teacher for their child.  They call it ‘maximizing their child’s potential’. We call it overkill and one hopes to be retired from education before this child, eh, the parents, start the college search.

Once the list of potential schools has been developed and after my review of it in early September of senior year, a student must decide which admission plan will be used. That’s right. There are admission plans. Here’s where the fun stops and the strategizing begins. Going E.D, or early decision, means that a student is willing to put all their eggs into one school’s admission basket by November 1.  Students are notified by mid-December of their status so, for those who have been accepted to their first choice school, the wait is over and they are welcomed into the class of 2015.

Many schools admit up to forty per cent of their entering class under the E.D plan, which is why some students apply this way, especially those shopping for that prestige college. If accepted to a college under the E.D plan a student must withdraw their applications to other schools. If deferred or rejected, well, the game continues. This is like the difference between being committed to a marriage and still playing the field.

Ah, but in planning an early admission strategy, families rarely consider the financial aid implications that go along with this plan. Better call your child’s counselor if a $30,000 + sticker price per year for tuition, room and board will be an issue for you, just in case the financial aid offer, if any, leaves you speechless.

Now, there is also an ‘early action’ plan. If a student is admitted to a college under this plan, there is no commitment to attend and there some room for a little bargaining in the ensuing financial aid discussions. Everybody wins here if the admission decision is favorable.

But college strategizes, too. That’s why they invented the E.D 2 plan. So, if a student doesn’t get into their first choice college, they still have an early shot at their second choice school. Oh, and there is a ‘priority’ plan, a ‘single choice early admission’ plan, a ‘rolling’ plan, and that old standby, the ‘regular admission’ plan.

So if each of my seniors applies for admission to just one college under any of the early plans, and most have, that is about forty-five applications to prepare and a detailed, two-page letter of recommendation that all comes due within a four week period.  Since my other counseling responsibilities for freshmen, sophomores and juniors do not stop just because it is college season for seniors, it’s no wonder I’m seeing lots of red this fall. And I’m not talking about the leaves. It’s times like this that one appreciates a good, old-fashioned toothache.


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