Considering Early Decision?

For many students, the college search does not end with the discovery of one top-choice school (this was the case for me; see my post from last year on “the perfect college”). But for some the search does end this way. Some students visit a particular campus, meet a tour guide or current student, or sit in on a class, and things just click – and they know they’ve found their top-choice school.

If that describes your experience with Richmond, then our Early Decision application option is definitely something you want to consider.

Early Decision is a great way to streamline the application process if you know you’re willing to commit to attending Richmond. Here’s how it works:  You apply by November 15 (for fall early decision) and submit a contract saying that you will enroll at Richmond if accepted; we review your application; and you receive your decision on or around December 15. Not only is the turnaround time much faster, but you learn much earlier of your acceptance, and you know where you’ll be next fall – at your top-choice school – before the winter holidays.

There are a lot of common questions we get from students who are considering Early Decision. Here are some important facts that will hopefully help answer those questions:

Early Decision is a binding agreement. This means that you agree to enroll at Richmond if admitted, and to withdraw your applications from other colleges without being able to compare options. We do this in fairness to other applicants, both at Richmond and elsewhere; if you break your commitment at Richmond, you’ve basically denied three or four regular-decision applicants an opportunity to be admitted, and if you’re committed to Richmond but you’re admitted elsewhere because you’ve kept your applications in “just to see,” you’ve basically denied other applicants at those institutions the opportunity to be admitted.

Our Early Decision acceptance rate is higher than our regular decision acceptance rate. It can vary quite a bit from year to year, given changes in the size of the pool and what we’re looking for, but in recent history the early decision acceptance rate has been quite a bit higher than our regular rate of 32-38%. We love to see students who are so excited about Richmond that they’re willing to commit early, and this is the #1 way we take your interest into account in our process. We also don’t know what the context of our regular applicant pool will look like, so we are more inclined to lock in as many academically competitive students as possible while we have the chance.

Applying Early Decision will not negatively affect your financial aid package. This is something to be careful about with many colleges. There are schools that will give ED applicants a smaller aid package because they already have the students “locked in.” At Richmond, our need-blind admission policy and commitment to meet 100% of demonstrated need extend to Early Decision applicants. So you are guaranteed the exact same need-based aid package you would receive if you applied Regular Decision. No strings attached.

Early Decision applicants can submit an estimated financial aid form with their application. Upon notification of acceptance, you’ll also receive an estimated financial aid package. Final numbers are, of course, dependent upon submission of the FAFSA and tax returns in February, but our financial aid office can usually predict fairly accurately what things will look like based on estimated figures. (“What about before I apply?” you ask. Remember, we guarantee to meet whatever your demonstrated need is after your Expected Family Contribution. There are some good EFC calculators out there – see our financial aid site for links – and if you get a good sense of what your EFC looks like, you’ll have a good idea of what we would offer to make up the rest. If you have particular or situation-specific questions, contact our finanical aid office.)

Early Decision applicants are eligible for all merit scholarships. While we do not offer merit scholarships specifically for ED students, all students who apply early are given full consideration for both the Richmond Scholars program (where the faculty committees don’t really know whether a student is already committed or not) and for the Presidential Scholars program. As with need-based aid, it won’t count negatively against you that you’re already committed to enroll. However, merit scholarships are not awarded until March or early April, so if your enrollment is dependent upon comparing merit offers from different universities, Early Decision may not be the best choice.

If you decide later in the process that you want to commit Early Decision, you have a second chance. Our winter Early Decision option means that you can still apply early on January 15. We’ll consider the winter ED pool in light of the fall ED pool, before we look at the regular decision pool, so you get the same benefits listed above – and you receive your decision on or around February 15.

Everything you need to know about applying Early Decision can be found on our Admission Timeline. Click the fall or winter box for a list of deadlines and requirements. The only additional application pieces we require of early decision applicants are the Early Decision Contract – signed by you, your parents, and your school counselor/official – as well as First Quarter/Trimester grades for fall ED applicants (we will be looking at your senior year progress!)

If you have any questions, please be in touch with our office or post your questions here on the blog. We’re happy to help counsel students and families that are considering Early Decision – we know it’s a commitment, and we want to help you make sure it’s the right decision and help you through the process.

We look forward to seeing your applications!


  1. Alexandra M. Stabile
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    My sister is a sophomore at Connecticut College which has a very high tuition level. I am considering early decision and my mother and I wondered if consideration is given at Richmond in financial aid decisions to the overall family fiscal impact of two expensive college tuitions.

    Thank you, Allie

    • Tom
      Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink


      Great question. The answer is (I think) a good one, and lies not in our own policies but (perhaps surprisingly) in the government’s.

      Our commitment at Richmond is to meet 100% of demonstrated need for all students, every year. Demonstrated need is basically whatever is left over to meet the full cost of attendance after your Expected Family Contribution (or EFC), which is determined by the FAFSA. Now, when more than one student is in college at the same time, the FAFSA will divide the EFC between them, effectively halving the EFC for each college.

      Say your EFC is $20,000. Richmond would award you about $30,000 to meet the full cost of attendance. But say, next year, you have a younger sibling entering college, and your family finances will be about the same. The EFC will be divided between the two of you, so your EFC at Richmond will only be $10,000. Next year, Richmond would award you about $40,000 in need-based aid to meet the full cost of attendance.

      So having more than one student in college can mean some significant increases in need-based financial aid. For some families, it might mean they qualify for aid when they did not before. (If your EFC is $60,000, you won’t receive any need-based aid from Richmond; but if a sibling enters college, your EFC is cut in half to $30,000, and suddenly you qualify for $20,000 in aid from Richmond.) Keep in mind that this works the other way too; your EFC will go up once your sister graduates from college.

      Our merit-based aid programs do not take financial need into account, with the exception of our Bonner Scholars program – all the others are based strictly on academic and personal merit, so merit scholarships are not taking family finances into account. (But then, students who are counting on merit aid may not want to apply early decision, since scholarships are not awarded until March, well after the enrollment deadline.)

      Your parents will also want to be sure to talk with Connecticut College about how they award aid – because your sister may qualify for more as well, once you are in college.

      I hope that’s not too confusing – I tried to make it as straightforward as I could. I hope Early Decision will be a strong possibility for you!


      • Meaghan Gsell
        Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        Hi Tom – I will be applying ED2 in January to Richmond. When I submit my paperwork on the 15th, will I be automatically considered for Merit Scholarships?

  2. Peter Campfield
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    U of R is definitely where I want to be! I applied ED and should be hearing back shortly… Go Spiders!

  3. Meaghan Gsell
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, January 15th.

    • Tom
      Posted December 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink


      To be considered for the Richmond Scholars program, you have to apply by December 15 – whether you’re applying regular or ED2. We won’t look at your application for admission until we consider the ED2 pool in January, but we will look many applications sooner for scholarship consideration. (There are two separate processes that are going on side by side.)

      • Meaghan Gsell
        Posted December 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Tom. Do I need to sign the ED contract before January 15th? The reason I ask is because it says it is non-binding.

      • Tom
        Posted December 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink


        The December 15 scholars deadline is non-binding, correct. In order to be considered for ED2 (which *is* binding), you need to submit the ED contract by January 15. Basically, you could (if you wanted) apply by December 15 to be considered for Richmond Scholars, and then decide later to commit ED2 and send the contract by January 15. Make sense?


      • Meaghan Gsell
        Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Tom. It makes sense.

      • Meaghan Gsell
        Posted December 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Hi Tom it’s Meaghan again. Can you tell me what % of early decision applications do you accept?

      • Tom
        Posted December 21, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink


        It varies a lot from year to year – usually between 50 and 65% across both ED pools. We won’t know the final percentage for this year until after ED2 in January, but it looks like it will be somewhere in the middle of that range.

      • Meaghan Gsell
        Posted December 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Tom. Do you accept the same amount/% between ED1 and ED2?

  4. Emily
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Tom,
    I applied regular decision to Richmond on December 22. I just emailed the admissions office regarding changing my application to Early Decision II, as it is before the January 15 deadline. Is this possible?

    Thank you,

    • Tom
      Posted January 5, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink


      Absolutely! It’s actually easier than most people think to change your application type from RD to ED or vice-versa. You just need to get in touch with our office (by e-mail or phone) and request that your status be changed. For Early Decision, the only additional piece you need to submit by January 15 in order to make your application complete is the ED contract, which requires signatures from you, a school official, and a parent or guardian.

      I’m thrilled to hear you’ve decided to apply ED!


      • Emily
        Posted January 5, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        thanks! i’ve already been in contact with the office.

        if possible, could you provide me with the name and contact information of my regional counselor? i live in northern new jersey.

Post a Comment to Tom

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: