Applying Early Decision & Financial Aid

Now that the calendar has turned to November, many seniors are working furiously on their college applications in preparation for applying “early” to one or more institutions. While Whitman does not have an Early Action (non-binding) program, we do offer two Early Decision (binding) application programs for students who consider Whitman to be their top choice. I frequently hear a student or parent tell me that Whitman is their top choice, but they’re nervous about applying Early Decision because of concern about financial aid. While this is certainly a real and valid concern for many families, let me help clarify a few points of confusion about ED and financial aid.

1) Each year, we admit and enroll a number of students who demonstrate financial need through our Early Decision program.
2) An admitted student to Whitman through Early Decision will receive the same need-based financial aid award as he/she would in Regular Decision months later.
3) While applying Early Decision is a binding agreement between the student, parents, counselor and Whitman College, if the student and his/her parents do not feel their financial aid award will afford them the opportunity to attend Whitman, we will release them from the binding agreement.

Essentially, here’s how I explain the pros/cons of Early Decision to a family concerned about financial aid: families who are considering Early Decision (or ED), but know that finances will be a critical factor in their decision of where to attend can still apply ED. Your family simply needs to assess very frankly what their situation and priorities are before deciding whether to apply Regular or Early Decision. If Whitman is your first-choice school and your family is willing and able to determine if it can afford Whitman without comparing ours to other financial aid packages, then Early Decision is a very viable option. If, however, your family knows that they will want to compare need-based and merit-based financial aid awards from multiple institutions, and decide thereafter how much they can afford based on your preferences as a student – then the path for your family might be Regular Decision.

The key is that your financial aid award ought to be the same, whether you apply Regular or Early Decision. The question for your family is how important it will be to compare costs from one institution to another. If you as a family are comfortable saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ solely on the basis of whether or not you can afford Whitman with the financial aid award in front of you, Early Decision allows certainty much earlier in the year at the school you are most excited about. If you have further questions or concerns about Early Decision, I encourage you to contact me or any of my colleagues in the admission office. I hope to see many of your applications in the coming weeks.

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