At Apply Point, we often receive questions from prospective students on the utility of applying to a law school through Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). ED is a binding agreement between the law school and a student. In this agreement, a student agrees not to submit ED applications to other programs and, in the case of an acceptance, must withdraw any outstanding applications or not attend law school that year. Conversely, EA or non-binding early programs, do not require a commitment from the applicant, but do provide an accelerated timeline for the receipt of a decision. Before you finalize your application game plan, it is important to consider the pros and cons of ED, a tempting option, as your likelihood of acceptance can be significantly higher.
So, what are the advantages of Early Decision?
Because ED is a yield protection round (everyone admitted must attend), admissions directors can be more forgiving of slight weaknesses. It must be noted, however, that the typical acceptance rate bump will not likely hold true for programs that offer generous scholarships along with binding acceptance, such as the George Washington University Law School’s Binding Presidential Merit Scholarship Program or the Emory University Law School’s Merit Scholarship.
Additionally, ED applicants often receive notification of their acceptance or rejection early, which allows them to continue in the application process with other schools. Students who are not accepted or rejected, early, move into the wider pool of applicants.
…and the disadvantages?
While the yield protection aspect of ED is advantageous to applicants when it comes to admissions likelihood, in most cases, applicants are at a disadvantage when being considered for merit-based scholarships. The school simply doesn’t have to do anything to sweeten the deal when the decision is binding. It is also important to note that, on Yale Law’s ‘Ask Asha’ Blog, the Assistant Director of Admissions noted that she considers ED commitments made at other schools. So, students who may have received an acceptance from Yale will not have the opportunity for consideration after applying ED to a different program.
Apply Points’ Take:
We generally do not recommend applying to a law school ED unless an applicant is sure they would attend, regardless of merit-based aid or other opportunities.