I’ve never been a fan of Early Decision (ED) even though in most, not all, cases it does yield higher admission results. When a football coach pushed one of my advisees to apply ED, I had to step in and say, “NO! It’s not in the student’s best interest.” It’s tempting to me to out the coach and college, but I won’t. However, this student’s story provides the perfect example of what can happen and the ramifications of ED.

On 12/7 the email from the dazed and confused parent hit my inbox. She writes:

“We visited Private University A (hefty price tag and net cost), and the coach offered (our son) a spot on the football team. He wants (him) to change his application from regular decision to early decision with their admissions adviser. We’ve told the coach that the tuition would need to match in state for him to go, and he said that if they aren’t able to match the amount we’re looking at that we would be released from the early decision binding. Apparently there’s a good chance (80% according to the coach) that Private University A would meet that number.”

She went on to describe she is afraid he’d be “black balled” at other colleges and while he likes Private University A as well as the idea of playing football, they are still waiting on an admission decision from Public University A and already have one from Public University B which has him interested.

So mom’s feeling pressure and her gut is telling her something is WRONG! She needs to go with her gut and here’s why which I detailed in my reply to her. Here’s the copy of my reply edited to protect the innocent….and THE GUILTY!


I am not at all a fan of ED. My thoughts on your particular situation and ED in general are…

  • College is about preparing for a career, not football. It sounds like the only reason he’s considering this is due to football.
  • If he weren’t playing football at Private University A, would he 100% want to attend there regardless of Public Universities A and B? If you can’t 100% say yes, then ED is not for you.
  • This private university is stingy (although I LOVE the school and they are less stingy than they used to be). While there’s a chance they may match the public cost of attendance, my professional opinion is it’s nowhere near the 80% the coach quoted you. Average net price at Private University A for families making $110k or more: $35,264.
  • If he applied Early Action to Public University A with the 12/1 deadline, he won’t hear until 2/1. Occasionally, they release those decisions in mid-January, but it definitely won’t be in December.

Now IF you change to ED at Private University A, you are legally required to withdrawal all other applications at all other universities once you are offered admission to the ED school. That means you’ll never likely get to the point of getting an admission decision from Public A – you’ll never know. AND my greatest concern is once you see the entire financial picture at Private A, it is too late to re-apply to the others and/or receive aid.

Additionally, while yes, if the financial offer at an ED school is beyond affordable for the family (Private A gets to use your FAFSA to decide what is affordable for you) then you can be released from ED. However, by then where does he have left to attend?

I strongly advise you not to pursue this. If the football coach and admissions both REALLY want (your son), they’ll pony up that same money ED or not.