Seniors Undergo Daunting and Exciting College Process Experience

Emma Leibowitz, Opinion Editor

Scrolling through your Instagram feed, you notice a post announcing a peer’s commitment to attend a certain college. Fascinated, you read through the comments and quickly discover that the student applied early decision (ED), meaning that they are now set to attend that college. You grumpily remember that you still have to wait a few weeks or even months before receiving a decision from all of the colleges to which you applied in the regular decision (RD) category. As the 2021 college admissions cycle continues, more and more students are anxiously awaiting the possibly life-changing decisions from various colleges.

But for those who were accepted ED, the college admissions process has come to a sudden end. According to College and Career counselor Stephanie Brady, colleges traditionally have higher acceptance rates for students who apply ED. Since ED admissions are binding, some colleges tend to prefer students who can make this commitment early-on in the process. Additionally, fewer students apply to colleges ED, and as the applicant pool shrinks, the admissions rate grows. “This year, I do believe that some colleges migrated over to taking more of their classes in the early decision round. Not significantly. And not all colleges, actually. Johns Hopkins actually comes to mind because Johns Hopkins this year took 50 percent of their class in their early decision rounds. But Duke has historically taken 50 percent, so that that’s no different. But some colleges did start to take more into their ED round,” Brady said.

53 Miramonte students applied ED to colleges this year. By contrast, 63 students in the class of 2020 applied ED to a school. 

Naviance, the online application manager used at Miramonte, reports that this year, nine students applied to Johns Hopkins University. “Deciding to apply ED was a very difficult decision for me, especially since I never had a ‘dream’ school. I had my five top colleges that I wanted to attend, but since the ED offered such a stark increase in acceptance rates, I ultimately decided to pick one school to ED to. For this reason, the decision to ED was mostly strategic, as I was thinking of EDing to Columbia or Duke. The reason I chose JHU over these was because I visited the JHU campus and through extensive research I was sure that this school was a great fit for me,” senior Paulo Parramon, who was accepted ED to Johns Hopkins as a neuroscience major, said. “The biggest takeaway from the college admissions process is how you can do everything right, the grades, the extracurriculars, the essays, and still get rejected from a top-20 school. As you become a more competitive applicant, you are never guaranteed admission to a school; in the end you are just increasing the probability of acceptance. The key is diversification and applying to several schools so that chances of getting into one of them is higher.”

Applying ED to college was also successful for senior Preston Nibley, who was accepted into Duke University and is now planning to enroll in the fall. “I chose Duke because, along with the Early Decision advantage, my mother attended Duke for Law School and my father completed his post-doctoral fellowship in cardiac electrophysiology there,” Nibley, who will major in cellular and molecular biology, said. 

Overall, Brady says that she has heard many favorable outcomes from students who applied to colleges ED, and many students are getting deferred to the early action (EA) or regular decision (RD) rounds. EA is an option that allows students to apply to colleges before the RD applicants, but if they are accepted into the school, they are not obligated to attend. Brady expects that at the end of this college admissions process, acceptances will be up in total, since the RD applicant pool will shrink as a result of an influx in EA applications, but EA acceptances so far have declined this year for the same reason. “I think students did think if ‘I apply early action, I’ll have a better chance of getting in.’ But guess what? If you have that thought, so does everybody else. So now everybody else just applied that way too. And in a world where a lot of our extracurriculars are shut down, people had time to work on applications,” Brady said.

Many Miramonte students applied to colleges in the EA round, but many are waiting to see their acceptances from RD as well before committing to one school. “I didn’t want to apply ED anywhere because it’s a huge commitment and I didn’t feel that connection with any one university,” senior Christine Pearson, who applied EA to Fordham University, Loyola Marymount University, Northeastern University, and Santa Clara University, said. “There was definitely a lot of stress around the process, as most students experience, because it requires so much energy and it’s pretty much all any adult will talk to you about. By January, when my last applications were due, I was totally wiped out and all that mattered was getting them submitted. After that, it was pretty rewarding because I had received acceptances and I know that I put some of my best work into those applications.”

Additionally, the cancellation of many standardized test sessions for both the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT), led to an influx of college applications as many institutions became test optional for the class of 2022. “When you’re looking at highly selective schools, in the absence of test scores, people’s egos lead them to believe that they’re more qualified to get in. It’s because these kids suddenly believe that the test scores were going to make or break their admittance,” Brady said.

But as seniors wrap up the college admissions process and nervously await their admissions decisions, many are now aware of issues within the admissions system. “First, the admissions system in our country is geared towards an intimate understanding of the inner-workings of the college admissions process. This knowledge is more easily accessible by students with tremendous resources at their fingertips, and as a result, affirmative action on the basis of income is unquestionably necessary to help level inequalities of opportunity. Second, standardized exams are an invaluable tool when adjusted for socio-economic status in determining the ability of students in relation to their peers on a national stage. Quite simply, without a national reference, the college admissions regime loses any merit previously attributed to it and becomes a subjective playground where pay-to-play becomes a norm so ingrained that no level of affirmative action could accurately disambiguate differences in merit without a national exam,” Nibley said.

As you tear your eyes away from the Instagram posts announcing college acceptances, you look forward to beginning a new chapter of your life in college as an adult. With more seniors receiving life-changing news from colleges, yet another Miramonte class gets closer to graduating, and soon, the process will start over again for the class of 2022.