Written by Ashley Kim, New York University, College Contact Counselor
It never was a question; I knew, since I knew enough to Google “NYU Undergraduate Film & TV admissions”, that I would apply for Early Decision. What drove that certainty was a mixture of passion for this future career I’d spent the last two years proving to my immigrant mother it was for me and that it wasn’t, like, economic suicide, pure stubbornness, and a healthy amount of naïveté that comes from thinking both $100 and $64 000 are big numbers and are therefore, similar in scale. What followed in the next four years until the application was plenty of realizing 1) $64 000 yearly is far far more expensive than $100 every month, 2) this really was getting closer to reality than a far-fetched dream, and 3) despite all this, I still would apply early, because the passion didn’t die out.
If you are just as foolishly passionate and stubbornly sure of your path as I was, coming to the decision to apply Early Decision so emotionally may be the way for you. Chances are, you are not, and you will need more concrete reasons to commit to something so massive. And chances are, if you are like me, you will definitely need a reminder as to what logical items you need to consider after making that emotional decision. And then make the emotional effort to consider it. Please.
So what even is Early Decision? And what’s this “Early Action” thing?
Early Decision is essentially an early submission deadline for your application package. Submitting Early Decision, not only limits you in how much time you have to prepare your materials, but it also limits you to accepting the college’s offer of enrollment when (we’re not going to mess around with the word “if” here!) it comes in. You will not be able to decline this offer to accept other enrollment offers, or for any other reason—save for major financial changes that prevent you from attending the college, such as a parental loss of income, or your house burning in a fire. The benefit to such a limiting contract is that it counts as a Demonstration of Interest, and will increase your chances of acceptance. While NYU’s Common Data Set states that Demonstrated Interest is only considered when deliberating acceptance, which is the second-lowest level of consideration, I noticed that about 200+ students were accepted into the NYU Tisch Film & TV undergraduate program following the NYU notification deadline (from group-chats that were formed). Given that’s about a third of the class, it’s safe to say that it does benefit your acceptances quite a bit.
Early Action also demonstrates interest, except it comes with fewer limitations for the student. You are not bound to the school when they send you their offer of acceptance, and you are therefore free to break their hearts and reject them. Due to that, Early Action counts for “less” demonstrated interest than Early Decision. NYU does not offer Early Action; if you are interested in film, Chapman is a great film school that offers Early Action.
UCs (University of California public colleges) do not offer early decisions or early action; however, the deadline is a month earlier than most Commonapp colleges’ regular deadlines.
Is it worth working like a hamster on a wheel trying to meet Early Decision?
It really depends. Besides the slight boost in the possibility of acceptance, if you apply early and are deferred, you have time to edit your application and improve it in time to resubmit for Regular Decision. However, most artistic major applications do need significantly more time than other majors to prepare a portfolio; this may make Early Decision a lot more stressful a deadline to meet.
There is also the fact that you are bound to the school. I highly encourage you to thoughtfully consider what that means; that means you will have to pay the amount of tuition that college charges, you will have to accept their scholarship if it’s pitiful, and you will have to go to that college and risk realizing too late that this isn’t the college for you. I am a terrible example that ended up working out really well; NYU is not a classic college with a campus and there are numerous students for whom it’s not a fit for them. I encourage you, if you can, to do a bench test. Sit on campus (or whatever counts as campus) and soak in the atmosphere. Try to imagine walking down that path every day, taking classes at that building, and drinking coffee at that cafe. Make sure it’s the right place for you, and make sure it’s a place that you can actually attend, in terms of financials. Keep in mind it’s not just tuition, but also an extra $10000+ for dorms, meal plans, and associated costs. And please talk to your family about all of this, and keep them posted on your plans. You’d hate to realize that you can’t attend school after all after you’ve celebrated being accepted.
Early Decision actually sounds like hell. Besides the small boost to your acceptance rate, why even do it?
While trying to get my five (5!!!) portfolio items together on time was quite stressful, I found that Early Decision actually ended up saving me quite a bit of stress. Getting to learn about my results three to four months before anyone else did mean that I didn’t have to be in a period of anxiety for as long as my peers who applied for Regular Decision did. As well, it allowed me to focus on my studies and projects during my last semester of high school, resulting in some final projects I am proud of to this day. NYU’s Early Decision notification date is early enough that I didn’t have to finish working on my Regular Decision applications, which saved me mountains of writing work.
Early Decision, like most of the college application process, is such a difficult choice because it must be both emotional and logical. It’s a commitment to a college that you’ve only gotten to know through rose-tinted glasses, and if you have trouble making decisions, this may be a very tough one. While I do advocate you make a plan that includes reach, target, and safety schools to apply Regular Decision when setting your college application schedule, I do want to assure you that nothing is permanent. Early Decision may seem daunting, but at the end of the day, you are selected to attend college by other people, who you can contact and converse with. If a college is your dream, and you have made sure it is a good match for you both in terms of feasibility and in terms of environment, I would encourage you to go for it. Reach for those crazy dreams, because chances are, you’re good enough for them! That certainly was the greatest surprise of my life, and I wish it to be yours as well.