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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.
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on May 12, 2003
This is an excellent expose of the game of college admissions as played mostly by the wealthiest and and most sophisticated prospective students who know about early decision programs. This book is, therefore, a must-read for every high school guidance counselor and parent of a child going to college, especially those who believe elite college admissions are extended only to the best qualified.
The only criticism of early admission I have some disagreement with is one emphasized frequently in the book -- that first semester high school seniors who apply early do not have time to sufficiently research potential colleges and know which will be the best fits for them. Information about colleges should be gathered during the student's junior year and, by September or October of his senior year, he/she should have a a good enough idea of what is reasonable to attain and what he/she wants in a college to be able to choose one above all others -- if early decision is something that student wants. The difference in application deadlines is only two months, not enough to make a significant difference for the serious-minded student. If that student wants Princeton more than any other college and, if Princeton fills 60% of its class from early applicants, it would be foolish for that student to wait until January to apply. That may not be the ideal situation but it is the reality.
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on May 12, 2003
In the not-too-distant past, the college admissions process was fairly straightforward. It was not fair, but it was fairly straightforward. Some recent changes to the process have brought more fairness, some have brought more complexity, and some have reduced fairness while increasing complexity. A change that has both reduced fairness and increased complexity is the preponderance of "Early Admissions" (i.e., "Early Decision" and "Early Action") plans.
Whatever one's opinions on Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED), they are realities that present high school students, their parents, and their counselors with a dilemma: To EA/ED or not to EA/ED?
When looking for answers to this dilemma, students, parents, and counselors have had to rely on unclear messages, equivocal statements, anecdotes, and urban myths.
"The Early Admissions Game: Joining the Elite" shines a bright and needed light into the darkest recesses of a murky maze. The book combines irrefutable statistics and the words of high school students, college students, and admissions professionals to present a clear and readable picture of a complex, often hermetic issue.
I don't use the phrase "irrefutable statistics" loosely here. Statistics are too often used to "prove" a theory that looks a lot like the preconceived notion that the researcher brought to the research. However, in this case, the authors possess the objectivity to report their findings with clarity and without baggage. Also, their backgrounds in economics, public policy, and college admissions give them the qualifications and abilities to present a comprehensive and in-depth review of the subject.
"The Early Admissions Game" explains both how to play the game by the current rules and, at the same time, advocates for a better, fairer system for the future. Information for the debate on EA/ED and practical advice for those coping in the "Age of EA/ED" are well presented.
Whether you love EA/ED, hate it, or just want to better understand EA/ED and the rest of the admissions process, this is a great book to read.
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on July 9, 2003
This book is for those young people who have Ivy League dreams. Avery and his colleagues have written a guide for high school students and parents who don't know much about the game of early admissions. It's written in an accessible way. The authors bolster their advice with strong empirical evidence.
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on October 16, 2005
Ok... I'm a junior studying at an American School in Mexico who considers to apply either to Princeton or to UPenn, ED, next year.

This book reveals the truth about early admissions.

If you are a top student considering an ivy league, but you fall in the middle of the applicant pool... APPLY EARLY somewhere; however, if you are concerned with financial aid, then apply Early Action, but apply early!

Just to give you an idea... If you have 1400 in the old SAT (equivalent to 2100 in the new one) and you apply to Columbia under the regular process, your chances of being admitted are 9%; on the other side, if you apply ED your chances increase to 64.4%... a 55.4% increase!!!!!!

It sounds unbelievable but it's true! there is much more in-depth study like this about admissions! IT'S A MUST!
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on October 3, 2003
As a battle-tested survivor of the college admissions struggle, I can attest wholeheartedly to the usefulness and accuracy of this book. College admissions really is a game, and it is critical that parents and students understand how that game is played. The authors' advice is sound: apply early, but also apply strategically to maximize your chances. There is a lot of information out there, most of it anecdotal, some of it outright wrong. Colleges themselves frequently hide the truth or mystify what is actually rather cut-and-dry. This book clears up any and all misconceptions. It also takes a sober look at the admissions landscape in the decades ahead, and offers some workable solutions.
Written in a very breezy, easily-digested style, this book is as appropriate for parents and counselors as it is for high school sophomores and juniors. And for goodness sake: if you're a senior, read this book today-- before it's too late!
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on March 3, 2003
A couple of Harvard professors and a former Wesleyan admissions officer have researched and written the definitive book on early college admissions. Their major conclusion: early applicants get admitted to select colleges at a much higher rate than equally qualifed ones who do not choose this option. Must reading for every parent of a student interested in a quality institution and for every high school guidance counselor.
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on June 15, 2010
While nothing in this book is technically wrong, all of the statistics are useless. Since the numbers of college admissions change so quickly, knowing your chances of getting into Yale in 1999 isn't that helpful today. For those who know absolutely nothing about early admissions and must spend money to learn about its basic caveats, then buy this book. Otherwise, one can find helpful, free information on websites like College Confidential, College Board, or The Princeton Review.
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on January 4, 2004
There are many parents out there who seem to relish their obnoxious, controlling, and obsessive roles in their children's lives, an illness that is most in evidence in the college admissions process. I'm not sure they should read this book: it might give them even more ideas.
More seriously, this is a very important study that is of great value to high school students planning on applying to competitive colleges and universities. It is not a light read; many will benefit sufficiently simply by reading the Introduction and the last chapter, "Advice to Applicants". This final chapter is really outstanding and all high school guidance counselors should be familiar with it.
This book is rich in information that can help students in thinking about college admissions. There is also one central conclusion (which has already been amply reported in the media): applying early decision (or early action) can significantly improve a student's chances of admission. The book also explains in detail why students should be very careful about weighing this decision, as there are also significant costs involved. Specific and detailed outlines for engaging in that decision process are here in the book.
A very worthwhile read.
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on May 20, 2003
This book is packed with very good, detailed information about colleges' use of early application options, particularly early decision. This book--more like a report--backs up what every good counselor knows: colleges admit applicants early that they may not otherwise admit. But this book is not an admissions process "how-to" guide. If you want that, try Allen's "College Admissions Trade Secrets." It's a very detailed and sometimes controversial book that reveals much of the same insider information that "Joining the Elite" reveals but in a more "how-to" format. Buy "Trade Secrets" with Princeton Review's "Best Colleges" and you'll have just about everything you'll need to tackle this process. Buy "Joining the Elite" if you need the fine details and justification for the things that Allen says.
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