Early Decision and WashU
Written by Undergraduate Admissions
Updated September 14, 2023
Every year, as the Early Decision deadlines approach, our Admissions Office hears a lot of rumors about this application plan. Here’s our inside take on the facts and myths of Early Decision (ED).
Early Decision is binding. Fact.
If I get in through ED, but then get in to another school later on, I can decide to go there. Myth.
Early Decision is an application plan or round that colleges and universities may offer. It is a binding decision plan, which means if students are admitted to the school through ED, they are committed to attending and will withdraw their applications to other schools they may have applied to. Often, the Early Decision deadline is earlier than the Regular Decision (non-binding) option and the college will release decisions earlier as well. Some schools, WashU included, also offer an Early Decision II plan, which works the same way as Early Decision I, but on a different timeline. (When I refer to Early Decision throughout this post, know that I am referring to both EDI and EDII.) Finally, students are only allowed to apply to one school through each Early Decision plan, which means the plan is best for students who feel confident that the school is where they want to spend the next four years. It is binding, and students admitted through Early Decision are committed to attending.
I have to have visited campus to apply ED. Myth.
I should only apply ED if I definitely want to attend. Fact.
Students applying to WashU through ED are excited about the supportive, collaborative, and dynamic WashU community, as well as the opportunity for intellectual engagement and academic rigor. Some of these students may have visited campus and met current students. Others may have attended some of our virtual programs, watched the virtual tour, or met us when we were visiting their hometowns. Some may have just done all of their research on their own. Regardless, students applying ED believe that WashU is the place where they want be, and they feel confident and comfortable applying in a binding round. And don’t just take my word for it.
If you are someone who already feels like WashU could be home, we encourage you to consider Early Decision, whether or not you have visited campus.
I need financial aid, so I can’t apply Early Decision. Myth.
I can speak to Student Financial Services before applying to get an estimate of my financial aid package. Fact.
We sometimes hear students say that they can’t apply through Early Decision because they need financial aid. Here at WashU, we meet 100% of demonstrated need for ALL admitted students with no-loan financial aid packages. And we have a need-blind admission policy for all applicants who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, which means an applicant’s ability to pay is not considered when making admission decisions! These policies apply for every admissions round.
This means that the financial aid award a student would receive from WashU in Early Decision is the same financial aid award they would receive in Regular Decision. If you are considering Early Decision but wondering about your potential financial aid award, you might want to start by filling out one of our online cost calculators, which provide an estimate of your family’s financial aid. Of course, that estimate is only a starting point, and may change when you provide additional information about any special circumstances impacting your family. If you have any questions about the estimate, you should reach out to our Student Financial Services team—really, they want to help. If the estimate is something that a family is comfortable with, Early Decision could be a great option, even for students seeking financial aid.
There is an advantage to applying ED. Fact.
Applying ED will make me a better fit for WashU. Myth.
Let’s talk about the benefits of ED. For starters, because of the earlier timeline, you know where you are going to school earlier! Then you can focus on the rest of your senior year without worrying about the college application process. For WashU, there is also a statistical advantage, as we see fewer students apply in Early Decision and see a higher acceptance rate. This makes it easier for students who are academically prepared and excited about the WashU community to stand out in the applicant pool. Last year, our acceptance rate in Early Decision (across EDI, EDII, and our QuestBridge round) was 26%, compared to our overall acceptance rate of 12%. Applying Early Decision doesn’t make a student more competitive in our process, but it can help a competitive student stand out.
WashU is an incredible place to call home. Fact.
I need to apply ED to join the WashU community. Myth.
Early Decision can be a really great way for bright, collaborative, and curious students to join the WashU community. Each year we bring in about 55-60% of our class through our early rounds, and they add so much to our campus!
With that said, we still have plenty of space in our Regular Decision round for students who aren’t quite sure where they want to attend school, need to wait to hear about merit scholarships, want to compare financial assistance packages from multiple schools, or many other reasons.
Hopefully this post has helped you understand our Early Decision rounds and may have encouraged some of you to apply through Early Decision. As always, if you have more questions about our application rounds, or anything else WashU, reach out!