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### The Negative Impact of Early College Application Deadlines

“The prime time of your life” — that’s the common perception of college, isn’t it? Nearly every grown-up I’ve conversed with regarding the commencement of college echoes the same sentiment. Following a grueling year of applications and decisions, I was eager for that chapter of my life to unfold.

The era of college attendance is synonymous with Gen Z. In today’s educational landscape, students are presented with a myriad of choices. However, the process of applying to and enrolling in a university has evolved into a formidable mechanism.

Depending on one’s upbringing and environment, pursuing a four-year college or university education may be more of an assumption than a choice. For individuals applying to multiple institutions, like many of my peers and I did in high school, there exists a palpable pressure — pressure to deliver results and pressure to secure admission. As the cost of post-secondary education escalates at certain institutions, students contemplating enrollment in a large or private university may find themselves grappling with the prospect of loans or debt.

Simultaneously, college acceptance rates are on the decline as a growing number of students are being prompted to apply early. Numerous universities have implemented multiple rounds of admissions decisions, encompassing early decision, early action, and regular decision.

Amidst these alternatives, it is imperative for students and parents to grasp certain key aspects. For example, if you opt for the early decision route and receive an acceptance, it is a binding agreement. During this process, a student and their parent or guardian must consent to this policy by signing an agreement before submitting the application. This process differs from early action, where the admissions decision is early but not binding.

There are enticing aspects to the early decision pathway. As the name suggests, early decisions are rendered sooner relative to regular decisions, typically spanning from October to December or early January. The advantage lies in alleviating stress, as accepted students are aware of their college destination at an earlier juncture.

This is particularly advantageous for students with a “dream school.” For those whose top choice institution significantly outweighs others, receiving that decision early can be immensely reassuring. However, early decision may present drawbacks in less obvious ways.

A major drawback of early decision for many students pertains to finances. Depending on the institution, tuition fees can amount to substantial figures, and an unwritten rule suggests that early decision candidates may receive fewer merit scholarships due to colleges having reduced incentive to offer them. This financial aspect is crucial but often overlooked by students opting for early decision.

Approximately 450 schools on the Common Application platform provide an early decision option, accounting for slightly less than half of the total schools available on the service.

Regrettably, this can pose challenges for low-income students. There is a valid argument that Early Decision admits may receive less financial aid, leading to a scenario where the benefits of early application cycles primarily favor higher-income students and families. Given the existing disparity in access to higher education, these admission cycles further disadvantage students from such backgrounds.

In a society where pursuing a college degree in the United States can burden students with exorbitant loans or debt post-graduation, it raises the question of why we endorse a system that might exacerbate the issue. While there is an allure in making a college decision a few months earlier, the long-term costs may outweigh the immediate benefits.

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Moreover, it is crucial to consider the age of most college applicants. High school seniors are typically 17 or 18 years old when selecting their educational path. Studies indicate that the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. By advocating for a system that pressures students to apply and decide hastily, the financial repercussions may not manifest until it’s too late to reverse course.

It is incumbent upon us to devise a system that empowers future generations to make informed choices for their enduring financial and academic prosperity. We must reassess the shortcomings within our current system and formulate one that mitigates fallout while aiding upcoming generations in their pursuits. As colleges increasingly prioritize financial gains over the well-being of their students, we must deliberate on whether to endorse such a system.

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