A question we get all the time is, are we going to get less money if we apply early decision? Now, before we answer that, let’s get clear on what that actually means.
Early Decision versus Early Action
Early decision means we have to sign a contract that says, if we get accepted into that school (we can only apply early decision to one school), we’re going to attend that college.
Early action, we can apply to as many schools as we’d like, and there’s no obligation to attend any of those schools we’ve selected now.
Back to Financial Aid
The question is, are we going to get less money? If we are telling that college ahead of time that will come to their school if we get in, but before we find out exactly how much it’s going to cost, the answer is, it depends on the college.
Generally speaking, you can expect to get an award that’s pretty close to the package you would have received regardless of how you applied. There are certainly cases where we have seen folks get a little less at some colleges. They’ll nickel and dime you a little bit if you apply early decision, because they know they have some leverage, okay?
Now schools, like the Ivy League schools and schools like them, they don’t mess around and you can expect to get what you would normally get, regardless of how you apply. But again, you may have to be prepared, if you go early decision, you may receive a few thousand dollars less than you would if you went early action or regular decision. For those schools that do this, however (you’re not signing up for the military), if you get an award that doesn’t work for your family financially, you can get out of that contract – no harm, no foul. You also might say, during the appeal process, “Hey, you guys didn’t give us enough. We’re not going to be able to come here unless you do a little bit better.” And that might, as we’ve seen evidence of, be an effective way to get some more aid.
Will you get less money if you apply for early decision? Not a lot less, but at some schools, they’re going to take advantage of the leverage.