Applying Early Decision to Brown University

The last two days I’ve been writing about applying early decision in the college admission process. Here are my two posts:

Finding the Success Rate of Applying Early Decision

Case Study: Applying Early Decision

After reading my case study post, a mom posed with her own question about early decision. I decided to answer her here.  I promise this will be the last time that I write about early decision for awhile!

Here is the mom’s note:

Dear Lynn: Love all your work!! I have been waiting for this question. My senior visited Brown University and loved it. I did the computations for the Common Data Set for Brown (reg. adm @ 11% and ED @23%). We have similar issues as “Sarah” but different.

My daughter will apply to other schools. She attends an International Baccalaureate program and has taken 7-8 AP exams with scores of 4 or more (ACT 30 and I forget SAT but did well). Also, excellent theatre training the past 4 years. I want her to apply ED Brown and we cannot afford it. What do you do if the school accepts you for ED and the financial pkg. in the spring does not fit? HELP and THANK you.

Applying Early Decision to an Ivy League School

The ramifications of applying early decision to an Ivy League school — or some of the other super elite schools — can be a bit different. Here’s why: the Ivies and other extremely selective schools provide excellent financial aid packages.

Consequently, if a teenager gets into Brown University or another Ivy that university will meet 100% of her demonstrated financial need. Whatever need-based aid package a school like Brown would give your daughter would be generous and could not be matched by the vast majority of colleges and universities further down the college admission food chain.

Most colleges and universities can’t be as generous because they don’t enjoy the fat endowments of the Ivies. These other institutions don’t attract as many rich kids who can pay full fare as the Ivies and I’d argue that Ivies don’t educate as many children who need lots of financial assistance.

Here’s the bottom line:

Applying to an Ivy League school early decision won’t be a financially crazy thing to do as long as the family requires need-based help.

It will be financially reckless for a child to apply early decision if a family is affluent and can’t pay full price for Brown or another $50,000+ school. That’s because the Ivy League and some other elite schools don’t give merit awards (non-need-based aid) to rich kids. You need to know what your Expected Family Contribution is before you can decide whether you are too affluent to get any need-based financial aid from these schools.

I’d suggest there is a cynical reason why Ivies don’t provide merit aid to affluent students. The Ivies don’t have to because wealthy teenagers flocks to these schools and will pay any price for admission.

I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on this topic!

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for and US News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter.

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    1. If the student was rejected for early decision, the school can defer its decision until regular decision. The school would notify the applicant if his ED application was deferred to the regular pool.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  1. Our Expected family contribution (according to the FAFSA4caster) is $18,000 and we will have 2 students in college come next fall. I assume Brown will expect us to contribute $9,000 towards our child’s education, is that correct? Also, our income next year is going to be lower than this year but we must use this year’s when applying. How will that factor in?
    Thanks for your help