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Articles / Applying to College / Early or Regular Decision for Aspiring Engineer?

July 1, 2010

Early or Regular Decision for Aspiring Engineer?

Question: My son wants to apply to to a school that has a binding Early Decision. The school's website says that if a student is deferred until the regular decision time, they are not biased against the student. He wants to go into engineering, SAT 1200 (CR & M), GPA unwt 3.75/wt 4.29, extra curr. activities & has a PT job. Would you suggest he apply for ED & let the chips fall where they may, or would it be better to wait until the Regular Decision deadline since his SAT's aren't fantastic? Thank you!

It would be helpful to know where your son plans to apply ED so that I can see where his SAT's stand in relation to that college's admitted-freshman mid-range scores.

Also, did he take any Subject Tests? Some engineering programs require (or at least prefer) SAT II's in math and chem and/or physics. Whether or not these tests are required, if your son has taken any of them and done well, this will work in his favor. Ditto AP exams in those areas.

If he applies ED and is deferred, it will not prejudice admission officials against him in the Regular Decision round. In fact, it could work in his favor because, when they reassess his application in the spring, the admission committee will see that their college is (or at least once was) his top choice. This may spur them to accept him over a similarly (or even slightly more) qualified candidate, assuming that your son's grades have remained steady (or improved).

He should also retake the SAT's, but--if this college accepts Score Choice--he should not have the new scores sent there until he has had a chance to see them to make sure that they are higher than the old ones.

Again, it would be useful to me to know your son's target college. If it is a highly selective college, it's possible that he might be denied outright in the early round, not deferred, before he has a chance to submit better scores. However, given his GPA, this seems unlikely, wherever he applies (but it is irresponsible of me to make assumptions based on the little I know about your son's course selection, specific grades in his most challenging classes, etc.).

Finally, if he retakes the SAT in October, he will have new scores in time for the ED round. Even November scores are often used in ED evaluation, in spite of the fact that these scores will probably be submitted after the ED deadline.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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