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Should I ED?

A: Student smiling holding Dartmouth banner

What a wonderful (and complicated) question! Applying early decision (ED) is something that a lot of high school seniors worry about since it is such a big commitment that you have to prepare for earlier than normal in the college admissions process.

I will note that I did not apply ED, although I did do an earlier process with Questbridge. However, many of my friends at Dartmouth did ED here and I had read a lot about doing early decision as well. From what I remember, there were some people I knew viewed ED-ing as a sort of short cut or game of chance: you can apply early to get the college application process out of the way, or you can apply early in the hopes of having better chances through the smaller pool of applicants. 

While certainly practical, those two reasons do not truly get at the heart of what ED is supposed to be. For students applying to college, early decision is meant to give them the chance to demonstrate their interest in one "dream" school that they know they would be 100% happy attending if admitted. If this personal goal or wish isn't present, it is quite likely that the application itself is not as captivating as others.

Therefore, I encourage you to do some research and follow your heart! You should apply ED if, after all the time spent online or talking with others, you have come to the conclusion that Dartmouth is the place you want to be for the next four years of your life—nothing more (or less) complicated than that. I completely empathize that this level of commitment to a school that you may have never even visited can be daunting, so some questions that can help you decide whether or not to ED are:

1. Do I want to spend my college years in a rural place like the Upper Valley? Do I want to be so close / so far away from home?

2. What would my financial aid look like if I went to Dartmouth? Is this something that I am comfortable with?

3. What do I hope to get out of my college experience personally, academically, and professionally? What do I need to be able to accomplish these goals?

4. How do I feel about small campuses vs. large ones? Rural ones vs. city ones? Liberal arts schools vs. pre-professional ones?

5. What other opportunities (study abroad, internships, industry connections, etc.) do I hope to find at college? Is Dartmouth the ideal place to get them?

Hopefully by answering these questions, doing some research on your own, and talking to Dartmouth students and students at other universities, you can begin to learn about what type of school you'd enjoy going to. At the end of the day, if you find yourself gravitating towards Dartmouth, then it may be worth your while to ED! But if you are still on-the-fence and could see yourself being happy at many institutions, there is also no rush. I myself applied to Dartmouth January 1st like the majority of students and enjoyed the range of choices I had come March my senior year of high school. 

College application season is very stressful for many people and can bring about a lot of doubts and reservations about which move is the "right" one. While the system is by no means perfect or understandable to outsiders like you or me, I do believe that everyone can grow in any place that they end up; treat this process as one of self-discovery and a culmination of all your hard work in high school and prior. Through your earnesty, dedication, and genuineness, I am sure that you will find the perfect place.

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