I got a note from someone going through the Ivy League recruiting process and her questions brought me back to the gut-wrenching, 11th hour dealings we experienced on the night before the Early Action deadline. Hopefully, I can help someone else avoid that…
I have some questions about Early Action and Early Decision and how that plays out if you are a recruited athlete in the Ivy League. First, should the athlete ask for a likely letter when deciding whether to apply EA or ED? If the coach refuses your request for a Likely Letter or gives a reason you cannot get one, should the athlete be more wary and maybe consider other schools, programs?
In addition, we are trying to figure out what, if anything, the current dialogue means and how dependable it is. It seems that a lot of problems can be mitigated somewhat by asking the right direct questions, but maybe not. And I do realize that Admissions Committee admits (coaches don’t), but presumably with academic pre-reads and knowledgeable, experienced coaches, the chance of being blind-sided should be reduced, right?
Just to be clear, Early Decision is binding and Early Action is not. So if you designate your application ED and you are accepted, you agree that you will withdraw any other applications and will attend that school. Early Action, on the other hand is non-binding.
In the Ivy League, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia and Penn have Early Decision and Harvard, Yale and Princeton have ‘Single-Choice Early Action’, which means that you are not obligated to enroll if accepted, but you can only designate one school as your early choice.
Coaches like to use the ‘early application’ as a way to get a commitment from a recruit. Although the Common Ivy 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,”
The reality is that part of “inquiring and encouraging commitment” usually means the recruit will be encouraged to demonstrate that commitment by applying ED or SCEA – this is the part that causes a lot of sleep loss for recruits and their parents. Basically you’re being asked to use your one-and-only early application to a school that rejects 9 of 10 applicants and the coach has made it clear that he will put you up for a Likely Letter, but ultimately, the acceptance decision is out of his hands.
So to get back to the questions, if an Ivy coach asks you to go EA or ED but can’t offer to list you for a Likely Letter, you should definitely be wary. Actually, thank him for being straightforward and telling you that you will not be supported. It makes your decision much easier – absolutely pursue other options.
As for the second part of your question, how do you reduce the chances of being blind-sided during this process? Asking direct questions is important, of course. Listening is even more important. There’s a line in The Boxer, by Simon and Garfunkel (showing my age here)
“…still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”
Before you pull the trigger on that ED or SCEA application, you need to know that your transcripts and test scores have had a positive pre-read with admissions. You also need to know that the head coach will be submitting your name to admissions for Likely Letter consideration. I’m stressing head coach because it has happened where an assistant coach has been gung-ho and assured the recruit of support, only to be denied when the head coach decided on other recruiting priorities.
One other important way to protect yourself is to get this done early. When we went though the Ivy recruiting process it all came to an incredibly stressful boiling point on the night before of the ED/EA deadline. Next, I’ll go into more detail on timing the application process to help minimize the stress and leave you with a backup in case things don’t work out.