What Makes a Student Succeed in EA/ED?
The primary reason for the discrepancy between EA/ED and RD admission rates can best be described as an example of sampling bias. Students who are successful in their EA/ED applications all share certain qualities regardless of the school to which they are applying.
First, these students are exceptionally well-qualified academically. Typically these students rank near the top (1%-3%) of all students internationally, let alone provincially or nationally within China.This means that these students usually possess SAT or ACT scores in the top 99th percentile, multiple AP exams with perfect scores (5), and an unweighted GPA of at least 3.9.
While these high standardized test scores and high school academic GPA on their own are not enough to secure enrollment to top U.S.universities and colleges through EA/ED, they are absolutely a prerequisite any student should have before considering applying to any top school, and especially to Top 30, Top 20 and Ivy League universities and colleges.
Second, in addition to outstandin gacademics, these students are extremely well-rounded in all other aspects aswell. For instance, these students know that the schools to which they are applying represent their “best fit” in all areas under consideration. Schools are not only looking for students with world-class academic credentials, they also want students who align with their specific values and who will contribute to the overall development of the collegiate community as a distinctive individual.
For example, Harvard University seeks “promising students who will contribute to the Harvard community during their college years, and to society throughout their lives. While academic accomplishment is important, the Admissions Committee considers many other factors – strong personal qualities, special talents, or excellences of all kinds, perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances, and the ability to take advantage of available resources and opportunities.”
Cornell University hopes that its students exemplify its values of “Honesty, Open-mindedness. Initiative. Empathy.”
The University of Pennsylvania states that “This is a community of people from all over the place, each with their own background and their own story. We’re really interesting in seeing all you love, everything that challenges you, and what you have learned, which together makes you a distinct, singular person.”
Likewise, Columbia University’s admission office writes “The admissions process at Columbia is a holistic one, which means that every part of the application matters to help inform our judgement…In the end our goal is to find the students who are the best fit for Columbia. Each year there are many more qualified applicants than there are places in our class. With such an appealing pool of applicants, it is the job of the admissions committee to get to know all students and select those that we believe will take greatest advantage of the unique Columbia experience and will offer something meaningful in return to the community.”
It is clear from these examples that each school is hoping to recruit specific type of student whose values align with aparticular image and community that those schools are hoping to create for themselves. A common trait of successful EA/ED applicants is that they have all identified a “hook” that draws the attention of admission officers by highlighting an individual’s connection to a specific university’s values.
Compelling hooks usually involve a particular student’s aspects such as outstanding artistic, scientific, or personal achievements. Service to others, community engagement, and an independent drive to succeed are other common hooks that we can observe from Ivy League admission statements. Additionally, students from underrepresented or exceptional backgrounds also tend to stand out in a crowded applicationfield. While specific examples of quality hooks will be discussed in other articles, it is important to note that “being an international student” or being the child of famous/successful parents is not in and of itself acompelling reason for a school to recruit you.
Therefore, when considering whether or not to apply EA/ED to a particular U.S. university or college, students should think critically about if they represent a “best-fit” candidate not only in terms of academics, but also research interests, personality, and individual background.
Finally, preparation is key. Applying to aparticular U.S. university or college for EA/ED requires a high degree of foresight on the part of students. Therefore, students who hope to be successful in their EA/ED applications need to invest the time and effort into perfecting all aspects of their application materials. While other students might just be beginning to craft their personal statements and supplement aryessays in the fall, successful EA/ED applicants will have already gone through multiple revisions of their materials by this time.
Students who attempt to apply for EA/ED while following the typical application timeline will oftentimes find themselves overwhelmed as they try to polish their essays on an expedited schedule. Services such as Vision Overseas’ Ivy Application Programcan help students identify potential hooks in their U.S. university and college applications, as well as being the EA/ED application process in a timely manner.
As we can see, the criteria for EA/ED applications are quite stringent. This results in an overall application pool that is far more restrictive than that of the RD application round. The fact that fewer overall students end up applying for EA/ED is the main reason that this process appears to be less competitive. Indeed, if a student meets these criteria they are much more likely to be accepted to an Ivy League university than the average student. The reality of the situation, however, is that most students simply do not have the competitiveness to succeed in the Ivy League EA/ED application cycle. Unless you fit these criteria, it is unlikely that you will be able to benefit from the apparently “easier” EA/ED application process.
Why do Schools Admit Students at Different Rates for EA/ED?
When we recognize that the majority of students who apply for EA/ED are truly exceptional and often represent“best-fit” candidates, it makes sense from a university’s perspective that they would admit a larger proportion of these applicants. Each and every year, U.S.universities and colleges want to fill their incoming freshman classes with top-notch students, and the EA/ED process allows them to do just that. When we look at specific examples, we can see exactly how much value elite U.S. universities and colleges place on recruiting students from this application pool.
For instance, in the most recent application cycle (the Class of 2023), Columbia University accepted 650 students out of 4,461 ED applications. In total (that is with its ED and RD applications combined), Columbia admitted only 2,247 students from a total of 42,569 applicants. This means that proportionally, these students admitted to Columbia during its ED application round represented 46.43% of total enrollment for the Class of 2023.Likewise, while Harvard’s acceptance rate for REA (Restrictive Early Action)applications was a highly competitive 13.44%, the 935 students admitted through this REA application round made up 55.99% of the total number of students admitted to Harvard for its entire Class of 2023.
It should be immediately apparent that top-tier U.S.universities and colleges prefer to recruit a large percentage of their students through the EA/ED application round. Beyond the fact that these students represent the best of the best, once U.S. universities and colleges have filled their rosters with exceptional students, admission officers at these schools have a much easier time culling acceptable students from the remainder of applications.
Of course, this is a benefit only to university administrators who have to sift through thousands of applications, NOT the students who are vying for an extremely limited number of available offers.