October Tip: "To ED or not to ED?"

It’s now October, the time of year when you and your peers are finalizing your college lists. As you begin to narrow down your list of top schools, you may be deciding whether to “go for it” and apply to your favorite school Early Decision or keep your options open and apply to several schools using Regular Decision.

At F&M, we want to help demystify the Early Decision (ED) option so you can make the right choice for you and your family. Here are some tips to help you determine which option is best for you:

  • ED can be a great option if you have a clear top choice or if you have a “dream school” that may be a bit of a stretch in terms of admissions criteria. Many colleges have slightly higher acceptance rates in ED. The reason: colleges love students who are enthusiastic about their school.
  • Do your research. Visit the school and conduct an application interview. Learn about the college’s majors, professors, activities, location and campus. Would you purchase a car without first test-driving it? Take the same approach with your college education and make sure you would be 100 percent satisfied with your investment.
  • Talk to a school counselor or an admission representative. These individuals are ready to answer your last-minute questions about schools and to discuss the Early Decision process. Let the admission representative know you're interested as early as possible.
  • "What about the cost? Many schools, including F&M, offer early estimates of financial aid so you can confidently enter the ED process. You can also utilize the Net Price Calculator tool to receive an instant financial aid estimate. F&M's Net Price Calculator can be found here.
  • ED requires genuine enthusiasm for the school. ED is a binding commitment; if admitted, you are expected to enroll and withdraw all other applications. If you cannot picture yourself perfectly happy and content at that school, then ED is not for you.
  • If you’re unsure about the best college choice for you, that’s O.K. But that probably means you are not ready for ED. Many schools (like F&M) offer multiple ED deadlines, so keep that in mind if you feel “ready” later in the process.
  • Make your own decision. Applying ED just because your best friend or significant other did is not a great plan. Your college goals are distinctively your own, and focusing on someone else’s decision may distract you from finding the right fit for you.
  • If you’ve applied ED, don’t stop your college search process. Hopefully, you will be admitted to your first-choice school. If not, you should have several other choices ready. It may be hard to fill out applications once you’ve decided on an ED school, but if you don’t get accepted ED, you don’t want to be left scrambling at the last minute.

At F&M, we want you to have a successful college search. If you ever have any questions regarding any aspect of the application process, please feel free to contact our knowledgeable admission staff. Don’t be shy. We’re here to help.


It’s tempting to encourage your student to apply ED, thereby avoiding what may be perceived as an anxiety-filled senior year. But not every student is ready to make such a big commitment this early. “Breezing” through senior year is not a great reason to go ED. If your student is confident with his/her first choice, by all means, encourage ED. If not, proceed with caution.

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