Does Early Decision Fill Most of the Seats in the Freshman Class?

Does Early Decision Fill Most of the Seats in the Freshman Class? Get ready for a slew of headlines trumpeting the arrival of decisions for those who applied under early action or early decision plans. Some students have already begun to receive their decisions for this admission season and more will hear in the coming week. For students who opted to take advantage of the additional time afforded by applying regular decision, this time may nevertheless be worrisome as the media trumpet stories about the record numbers of early applicants. One of the most persistent storylines is that early decision fills most of the seats in the freshman class. NOT! Read on in this excerpt from the book to understand the real story: “The college you’re applying to has filled half its freshman class with early decision applicants!” You may have heard things like this and worried there won’t be enough room left if you apply under regular decision. But this is a case where the numbers are deceiving. Let’s do the math. The question is not how many seats are being taken up in the class by applicants who applied under early decision. The question is, what percentage of the school’s total admission offers is already gone? It sounds incredible, but it’s true that even when half the seats are filled with ED applicants, fewer than half the acceptances have been given out. Here’s how it works. Say a highly selective college can only enroll ten students in its freshman class, and five are accepted early decision. Because the ED process required their prior commitment to attend if accepted, the college knows for sure they are coming. Yes, that leaves five spots to be filled in next year’s class under regular decision. But remember that the dean of admission knows that students accepted through the regular decision process haven’t precommitted to actually attend. In fact, on average for this hypothetical but not untypical college, only about half will. The college can admit ten students under its RD process to fill the remaining five seats. So the college will actually admit fifteen students total. When five acceptances were given early decision, that wasn’t half the fat  envelopes— it was only  one- third.  Two- thirds are still left for the regular decision process. No reason to panic. Next week, we'll be posting a series of articles about what steps students should take if they are admitted, deferred or denied under early plans. For more information about decision plans, check the Excerpt from our book here. And for even more information, check out the Decision Plans chapter in the book.

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