Countdown to College – Early Decision II – a new option

Notifications for Early Decision (ED) and Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) have been delivered. This year, as in previous years, there were many more tears than fist bumps.

Here are some of the staggeringly competitive numbers: Duke University - ED (, 3,455 applied, 24 percent accepted; Harvard University - SCEA (, 6,173 applied, 15 percent accepted; Stanford – SCEA (, 7,297 applied, 10 percent accepted.

Students who were rejected or deferred now find themselves in Phase 2 of their application process. Many will examine their lists more closely to reevaluate their thoughts on which schools are “reach,” “target” and “safeties.”

There is a relatively new wrinkle in college admissions: an admissions program called Early Decision II (ED II). Traditional ED programs have a Nov. 1 deadline and a December notification. ED II deadlines are typically Jan. 1 with notification by mid-February. This extra time allows students who were deferred or rejected from their first-choice school to apply with a binding decision, and perhaps a boosted opportunity to another college.

According to my latest research, 80 colleges and universities offer ED II including: Emory University, Boston University and Davidson College. For a complete list visit:

Benefits of ED II

ED II allows students more time to prepare their strongest application. That may mean rewriting their Common Application essay or refining their supplemental prompts or it may mean another chance to take the standardized tests. ED II also gives students with strong performance in their first semester senior year another quarter or semester of grades to share with colleges.

According to Sally Rubenstone, senior adviser at College Confidential (, “Applying - Early Decision” does give students a bit of an admissions-odds boost at most colleges. Admission folks are usually willing to lock in strong-but-not-spectacular candidates whom they know will show up in September.”

Colleges really like Early Decision I and Early Decision II because accepted students are committed to attend, and that increases their yield numbers and the yield number impacts their rankings. Additionally, it helps the admissions office shape the class by allowing them to be pickier with the regular decision applicants.

Rubenstone also shares that “there can be some financial disadvantages to applying ED in any round because an affirmative decision will eliminate your chance to compare multiple aid packages. But, on the other hand, if an ED school does not offer reasonable aid then it’s okay to wheedle out of the so-called “binding” commitment.”

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;