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The best evidence that early admission boosts acceptance.
on January 17, 2004
This is an excellent book that provides the best evidence that Early Admission programs boost your chance of admission. The authors have conducted world-class research on this esoteric subject. They support any of their hypotheses with a lot of data, graphs, tables, and references. In other words, they don't make anything up. And, they uncover a whole lot of stuff nobody else did. Despite the somewhat quantitative and dry nature of this book, it is very easy to read given the very lively writing style of the authors.
This book fits a very unique niche within the college admission literature. I can't think of any other book as a substitute. However, I also recommend `A is for Admission' by Michele Hernandez. In their own research, the authors mention this is one of the better and most honest books on college admission they came across. I agree, as I have also studied that book in detail. Nevertheless, `The Early Admission Game' given its much more narrow focus than your standard college admission guide drills down a lot deeper on acceptance rate probabilities, and other implications of the early admission programs at top schools.
Their research is unequivocal; applying Early Action (EA) is the equivalent of a 100-point boost in SAT score. While applying Early Decision (ED) is the equivalent of a 150 + point boost in SAT score. Most of the selective schools that use these programs refute this evidence. They argue that the pool of students who apply early is much stronger, and that is why the acceptance rates are higher. But, the authors' research strongly rebuts this. To the contrary, they found there is very little difference between the early applicants and the regular ones. They actually found that EA applicants were slightly stronger. But, that ED was slightly weaker.
The book provides the best data I have ever seen on acceptance rates at the top schools. The book gives you the whole distribution of acceptance rate given specific SAT score buckets. For instance, Stanford's acceptance rate associated with SAT scores of 1400 is 9%. This is true whether a student applies early or not. Thus, in this case the SAT score is too low for the early admission benefit to kick in. On the other hand, if an applicant has an SAT score between 1410 - 1450, the acceptance rate for an early applicant jumps to 40% that is essentially the same as for regular applicants with SAT score of 1510 - 1550. Meanwhile, regular applicants with scores of 1410 - 1450 would get an acceptance rate of only 19%. In other words, an applicant with an SAT score of 1410 to 1450 would more than double their chance of being accepted by applying early (a jump from 19% to 40%).
In essence, the early admission programs offer students a Faustian deal: apply early at a top school and you will get a much greater chance of being accepted. On the other hand, you will probably have reduced or eliminated your choice of colleges, and you will limit your financial aid. Indeed, when you apply early you give up your negotiation power within the financial aid game. This is especially true for ED. This does not mean you will not get financial aid. But, your financial aid package will be limited to a basic "meets need" level. This is probably less than if you could freely negotiate your financial aid package between two or three schools that accepted you.
Given the nature of this Faustian deal, it is logical that it is the wealthier students who apply early, and the minority students who apply later during regular admission. Thus, the early admission programs have been deemed unfair and having severe social policy repercussion against minorities. But, is this really the case? The authors indicate that African Americans benefit from a staggering 400-point advantage. In other words, the early admission program is just a mean for others to attempt to even out somewhat this "diversity" game. And, as the research indicate the advantage of an African American is still between more than two to four times as great as any advantage obtained by early applicants. The ones who may suffer from the implication of early applications are not the minorities, but the lower middle class and middle class for whom financial aid is a material consideration. This is the case for two reasons. They are locked out of the acceptance advantage of ED. And, also the acceptance rate for regular applicant is lowered the more a specific school uses early application to fill its freshman class. And, that is tough.
Besides political correctness, there is no doubt you should apply early to your top choice "reach" school if you can afford it. There are a couple of caveats however. Make sure that your ED application is your first choice. If you don't have a clear first choice, limit your early applications to EA only that do not bind you to matriculate at that school. Also, make sure you can afford receiving a less than optimal financial aid package. Finally, don't waste your EA or ED options. Let's say you have a 1250 SAT score, don't waste your ED card on an Ivy League. You are not in the ballpark. Even with the advantage of early application, you just won't get in. So, play your EA/ED card carefully by fully understanding the financial aid implications and the acceptance rate probability implications.