Choosing how to apply to a college can be daunting. There are multiple types of admissions choices: regular, early action, early decision, immediate decision, restricted early action, and so on.
Understanding your options is crucial to the process. I generally explain them in terms of looking for a prom date:
While Early Decision gets you the prom date, you don't have any say in the cost of the date. There's no splitting the check, opting for KFC over Shi-Shi in the City, sharing a limo with friends. You're stuck with the date and all it entails. It doesn't matter that you thought you'd get a 50% off coupon for tickets that didn't pan out. The bill comes, you pay--all of it. (Although you can technically get out of the date if it's really too expensive, but that's tough too.)
Early Decision gets you a guarantee of a good date. In fact, your chances of dating the Prom Queen or King is almost double if you ask for it Early.
As this Washington Post article shows, double is serious business. Want to go to prom with UPenn? They admit 24% ED and only 10% RD. Davidson? 48% for ED and 22% for RD. William and Mary? 50% ED to 34% RD.
However, getting the great date is only great if you can afford the cost, even if it's above what you thought. This is the problem. The wealthy can afford to take the cost risk and apply early. Those struggling and need to see the financial aid packages can't take advantage of the better yes rate.
Is it unfair? I'm not sure. Is it good to know the rules of the game before starting the process? Yes. After all, a good date can make life much more fun.
A College Counselor who asks and answers the tough questions.