It appears initially like another potential option for applicants (positive) but when it actually becomes one it just creates more panic (negative). Yes, we’ve seen it before; but this year it has become more intensified and, the way I see it, much more unhealthy. It's not my students' faults; there's a massive flaw in the system and ED2 only makes that flaw deeper and more destructive.
After months and sometimes years of determining their proper lists, my students apply to their universities with a clear understanding of who they are, what they want in an institution and which institutions are going to be a fit. It’s true that this year every one of my students either submitted ED or EA/SCEA applications. It’s also true that we were well aware that this year, as directed by the historical percentages of years’ past and what their numbers indicated to us, would be more selective than ever. Yet, while it’s difficult to prepare for rejection—it’s even more difficult to prepare for the panic that follows. And, this is what I’ve seen this year. Panic. And, it’s due to ED2.
This year every one of my students who was not admitted or was deferred from their ED1 or SCEA started to think about ED2…but with a twinge of dread. We were quite clear on that ED1 or SCEA/EA application; however, when you get into ED2 you’re really just getting into the game and foregoing all of the hard work, intention and dedication to self that the student harvested over months to create her list. I found that this year the only reason for a student choosing or considering ED2 was for the “percent acceptance”—basically to hedge bets. This is an unhealthy approach to determine which university you want to attend and not the way we should be teaching our students to take choices. But, with ED2 do they have a choice?
“Do you really want to go to UChicago?”
“Well, I really like it. But, I also hope to have choices and that’s why UChicago was not my ED1. But, I think I stand a better chance of getting in and I’m afraid I won’t get in anywhere if I don’t apply ED2.”
Yet, we don’t know how much of the class an institution plans to fill in ED2 nor what percentage of applicants they’ll take. No one holds the crystal ball in this process. Yet, the very process has motivated applicants to think this way. And to act on that thinking. What a terrible lesson to teach them.
I want my students to have options. I want them to figure out which school is best for them and to be able to defend this fit. Truly and genuinely. It is not right that they have to go back on this sense of self to try to play a game that is almost forced upon them, one that ultimately exists to benefit the institution. (Enrollment Management can fill whatever percent of its class with ED policies to ensure the “correct” number of students that will matriculate the following year, easing the institution’s P&L and not having to worry so much about “yield” from RD or EA.) It’s true that if ED2 did not exist there would be much less angst among my students. They simply would not have to take a decision based not wholly on what they want.
In the end many of my students will not go with ED2. Some will. I respect whatever decision they take so long as it’s theirs and they know the potential consequences and reasons for the choice they make. I worry, however, that this year will be one we look back on saying it was one without that much panic and stress. I do believe that with more and more universities adopting ED2 policies the frenzy and decisions-based-on-numbers (and not on what the student wants) will ever-intensify. We must continue to help educate our students and families on how to choose the right fit institutions and why this is so critical for success.