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Reacting to ED & EA Decision Letters: Plan Your Next Steps

It's that time of year for all things jolly and bright—a time for breaks from school (and work) and holiday gatherings with family and friends. And it is a time for both nostalgic reflection and eager anticipation as the New Year looms with possibilities.

For many college-bound students, one of those possibilities is the word that they have been admitted into the college of their choice! Indeed, it is also the time of year when the outcome of Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) applications becomes known. While many applicants receive good news, others are left wondering about next steps in the application process. Let’s take a look at the possible outcomes along with recommendations for moving forward in each case.


You've Been Accepted ED or EA. What's Next?

You’re accepted! This great news—now you can exhale! As you do, however, remember what this means. In the case of both ED and EA, you have been assured a place in the entering class at the school in question. Is it a guarantee?  Well, sort of. In not so small print, most acceptance letters remind you that the offer of admission is contingent on your completion of the senior year at the same level of performance that won you admission. The admission office at that school will continue to track your performance through graduation all the while reserving the right to withdraw its offer (and your place in the class) if you fail to live up to your end of the bargain. So…


      • Relax and have fun, but keep going to class and perform at the highest level possible.

      • Resist the temptation to “modify” your academic course load for the balance of the year.

      • Make sure any subsequent changes in program or performance are addressed in updates to your application file. You don’t want admission officers to have to guess about any unexplained irregularities that materialize after you have been admitted.


First, Take Steps to Honor Your Commitment

While both ED and EA offers of admission bring peace of mind, the ED offer also requires you to take action by completing the enrollment process. As an admitted ED candidate, you must:


      • Withdraw all other applications including those at schools where you might be under consideration for any type of scholarship. Your ED commitment means you have agreed to forfeit those other possibilities.
      • Submit your enrollment deposit by the designated date in your acceptance letter.


Next, Consider Your Financial Aid

If you have been admitted ED and have submitted the required forms for financial aid in a timely fashion, you have the right to see—and accept—your financial aid award letter before withdrawing other applications and submitting your enrollment deposit. 


On the other hand, don’t expect an extension on your enrollment deadline in order to complete the financial aid forms (if you are starting that process after the offer of admission has been made) or to compare financial aid awards with other schools. Similarly, you might be expected to enroll before learning your status with regard to scholarships for which you have applied at that school.


You've Been Deferred or Denied. Now What?

If you have been denied, the outcome is clear. There will be no further review. It is time to look ahead to your other options. 


If you have been deferred, the admission committee is demonstrating its reluctance to commit to you right now. It wants to see more information (updated grades, new accomplishments, etc.) from you and to see how your credentials fit in the overall candidate pool before making a final decision.


As a result, you still have “hope” that for a positive outcome. Generally speaking, however, deferred candidates don’t fare as well later in the admission process. The dynamics of ED at most places are such that if an admission committee thinks it might admit you as a regular candidate, it most often will admit you as an ED candidate.


In the case of either deferral or denial, you are effectively being set free from any commitment. You are a “free agent” able to re-focus on other schools on your short list that presumably represent good fits for you. Things will work out. Some of these places will even resurface as strong suitors encouraging you to think about converting your application from “Regular” admission to Early Decision Round Two at their schools. This is a viable option, however, be careful not to react emotionally to such opportunities. Make sure you are embracing a healthy, positive, constructive opportunity rather than rebounding from a situation that resulted in great disappointment. Early Decision, even through a Round Two option, still involves a commitment. Make sure it’s the right place for you.


Keep Your Head Held High

Believe in yourself! In the mass mayhem of ED and EA, self-worth seems to ride on the coattails of each outcome. Just as you might be flying high with a letter of acceptance, it is also easy to feel like you have somehow failed if you are not admitted to the school of your choice. Don’t succumb to that notion. That school has simply made other choices based on agendas, seen and unseen. In the process, it missed an opportunity to choose you. 


You will find wonderful opportunities at other schools if you only allow yourself to see them. Don’t ever stop believing in you, then. As long as you don’t lose sight of who you are and what you hope to accomplish in college and in life, you will be fine.

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