Editor’s Note: Today’s guest author is Dean of Undergraduate Admissions John Latting. Dean Latting expressed interest in writing an entry for those prospective applicants debating whether to apply through our early decision program. So read on to hear Dean Latting’s advice on the advantages and disadvantages to applying early decision to Johns Hopkins University.
As we near the deadline to apply “early” here at Johns Hopkins, we thought it might be helpful to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the process, at least from where we see things.
Our early application program, as an “early decision” plan, does require that students commit to attending Johns Hopkins if admitted. That’s the big thing to keep in mind. There is also a November 1 application deadline, and a December 15 notification date.
So what are the advantages? First, there’s the timeline itself: You’ll hear from us in December, before the general January 1 deadlines. This allows you to make adjustments to where, and to how many, colleges you’ll apply by that time. Students who are admitted early decision don’t have to apply anywhere else. They’re done, and they can focus on other things beside college admission for the rest of their senior year.
For students not admitted, they, too have feedback in December. They can then proceed with the applications they were considering for regular decision elsewhere, knowing that a place in a college freshman class still has to be found.
A second advantage has to do with chances of gaining admission. I don’t want you to make too much of this point, but when we’re reading applications during the early process, we don’t feel nearly as constrained as we do during regular decision to bring the size of the freshman class down to our target (which lately has been 1,235 students). At the early stage there is more freedom to respond to students who make a great case. During regular decision there are times when, frankly, capacity in the class just doesn’t allow us to admit all the students we think are great. Admit rates in early and regular decision here have been about 40% and 20%, respectively. The difference reflects how we breathe a little easier in December than we do in March.
But here’s where I need to remind you of the terms of the whole process—not so much the “disadvantage,” but just the reality of early decision. Despite more favorable admit rates at Johns Hopkins (and often at other universities, too) the process remains sensible only for students who have a clear first-choice school , students who have done the research to get to that point, and students who would have no regrets about enrolling at their early decision school. If Johns Hopkins seems familiar to you, is something you believe you have prepared for (academically, in particular), meets your expectations for what a college should be, and is just where you really want to be next fall, then by all means apply early. You are the reason we have the option in the first place.
If there’s a disadvantage with applying early decision, it has to do with financial aid. No, you won’t get bigger grants from Johns Hopkins if you are admitted regular decision, rather than early decision. We use absolutely, precisely the same methods for calculating eligibility for financial aid no matter when you are admitted. And we admit students without regard to whether they apply for financial aid, and how much we think they might need. But what you can’t do is compare financial aid offers from more than one college or university. Each institution has its own way of determining how much a family can reasonably pay for college, and the outcome of that process is only revealed after you are offered admission. When you apply early decision, you just get that one offer of financial aid.
Now, if you and your parents don’t like what you see there, or feel it isn’t reasonable, you can be released from any obligation to enroll (at least you can here at Johns Hopkins). Just let us know. It should be encouraging to hear that last year, out of 493 Early Decision admits here at Johns Hopkins, only six students felt that our financial aid offer wasn’t acceptable to them and their parents.
And this financial aid issue gets back to the point about the importance of whether you have a clear first-choice college or not. If you’re looking here, or somewhere else for early decision and wouldn’t be thrown off by a financial aid difference (which, by the way, you can estimate using a college’s net price calculator; here’s ours: http://www.jhu.edu/finaid/estimator.html), then, we say it again: It makes sense to apply early.
Good luck to all!
End Note: For additional perspectives on applying early decision to Johns Hopkins read these previous blog entries composed by Admissions_Daniel: October 2009 – Early Decision: Is It Right For You? and November 2006: To ED or Not to ED. As well, if you have questions feel free to post them on the Early Decision discussion thread on the Hopkins Forums.