As a recruited athlete at one of the Tier 1 Colleges, the coach will probably request that you apply Early Decision or Early Action if he is helping support you through admissions. Although The Common Ivy League Agreement states:
“A coach may both inquire about a candidate’s level of commitment to an Ivy institution, or interest in attending that Ivy institution, and encourage that interest. However, a candidate may not be required to make a matriculation commitment, to withdraw other applications, or to refrain from visiting another institution, as a condition for receiving a “likely” letter, or an estimate of financial aid eligibility, or a coach’s support in the admissions process”
The reality of the situation is that a coach will encourage you to go ED/EA and if you are unwilling, he may feel he has to move down the list. This situation isn’t unique to the Ivy League. Selective D3 colleges operate in a similar manner.
Since all financial aid is need-based in the Ivy League and many selective D3 colleges, binding Early Decision can put you in a bad spot if financial aid is going to be a concern. If you are accepted Early Decision, but find that the FA award is insufficient, generally speaking, you are allowed to withdraw from the ED commitment. The burden, however, will be on you to demonstrate that the Financial Aid award is insufficient.
To help avoid an unpleasant surprise from the FA office, get a financial aid pre-read before pulling the trigger on your ED application. The pre-read is an estimate, but should be accurate provided that you give them good information. Also, if your actual offer comes in much lower than your pre-read estimate you have stronger case to withdraw from the ED commitment (or ask for a re-evaluation).
Early Decision for Athletes Without Support
But how about if there is no support coming from the coach – is it still advantageous to apply ED or EA?
If you look at the data from some of the Tier 1 colleges, it certainly looks like it’s wise to apply Early Decision/Early Action. Let’s look at Princeton as an example. According to the Princeton Newsletter, in the class of 2016, 726 students were accepted out of 3443 in the Single Choice Early Action pool. That translates to a 21% acceptance rate – far higher than the 7.9% of applicants accepted overall.
Ivy League Early Decision Acceptance Rates 2016
It seems like a no-brainer, if you want to maximize your chances at your dream school, apply early-decision or early-action, right? But let’s dig behind the numbers a little bit.
The vast majority of recruited athletes apply during the Early Decision or Early action round. At a school like Princeton, it’s safe to say that approximately 250 athletes are issued Likely Letters (and maybe another 150 Likely Letters go to non-athletes). So, out of the 726 students accepted in the Early Action round, approximately 400 of them were Likely Letter recipients and their acceptance was a foregone conclusion.
If we take the Likely Letter applicants out of the equation we see that for non-supported applicants, approximately 325 out of a pool of 3043 were accepted. That gives a rate of 10.6%. Still better than the 7.9% overall, but not by much.
The numbers are similar throughout the Ivies and in the NESCAC as well. Most supported athletes are coming through in the early rounds and that skews the early acceptance numbers significantly.
So as an athlete – your ED or EA application is a way to demonstrate your commitment to attend which is key to getting support through admissions. But if you are not being supported, does it make sense to commit to ED / EA?
When you take to Likely Letter applicants out of it – there just doesn’t seem to be a big advantage to going ED. The downside of ED is that you also lose some control over your Financial Aid award.
For those who have been through a binding ED process, were you satisfied with your financial award? If not, were you able to get it changed?