Thursday, January 10, 2002

It’s (early) decision time for Cape seniors

Published in the Current

While college applications still loom for some, 40 percent of the Cape senior class already is finding out whether they got into the colleges of their choice.

Of the 110 students in the Cape Elizabeth High senior class, 22 applied for early decision and another 22 applied for early action. Early decision is binding, meaning a student applies to only one school, and promises to attend that school if accepted. Early action is non-binding, and allows the student to apply to more than one college at once or to some early-action and others under regular admissions deadlines.

Knowing ahead of time is nice, but money complicates the issue. At most colleges and universities, financial aid packages are created at the same time as admissions decisions, meaning an early-decision applicant may end up with a less appealing aid package and have no choice but to accept it. Early-action and regular applicants can review several financial aid offers before making a final decision about which school to attend.

Individual decisions
One Cape senior who has decided not to apply early anywhere is David Kramer. He is looking at seven schools.

Kramer, who wants to major in civil engineering, has visited all of the schools he is considering, and is impressed with their programs. He had considered applying early decision at Tufts, but had second thoughts.

“What if some other school is just as good or better?” Kramer asked. Instead of deciding now, he will wait to see which schools admit him and go back for a second visit.

None of the schools on his list offer early action, but all do offer early decision applications.

“I probably would have done that (early action) if it was an option,” Kramer said.

He said early decision has its benefits, but not for him. “It’s good for people who know exactly where they want to go,” he said. “I really couldn’t decide.”

Meghan Donovan, CEHS class of 2001 and now a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., did not apply early decision, though after one particular college visit she initially wanted to. She was glad her mother, who works in the high school’s guidance office, suggested she wait.

She wrote in an e-mail to The Current, “Fall is a very stressful time, with one of the most stressful semesters of high school in full swing, SATs and a host of other distractions. It is therefore wise, I believe, to take the extra time to do regular decision.”

“My applications were better presented and composed because of the extra time waiting provided me,” Donovan wrote.

Amanda Gann, a senior who applied early action to Harvard and to Georgetown, said she was applying early to get her ball rolling before the real time crunch hit over the holidays.

“I wanted to get my act together early,” Gann said.

She is applying to six or seven schools, she said, but she wasn’t sure what was really her top-choice school.

“I’m not very good at making up my mind. Your mind changes from day to day,” she said. And early action has its payoff: if it’s successful, there’s a holiday present. “You find out in December.”

Allon Kahn got such a present, with an admission letter from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He applied there under the school’s early decision program, and got his letter on a Saturday in December “at 1:45 p.m.” he said, adding that he greeted the mail carrier and started celebrating outside on the street as he read the letter.

“It was so clearly my first choice,” Kahn said. He researched a lot of colleges before going on a large tour of campuses in April. After the tour, he said, he was down to two schools at the top, and Vassar was ahead.

He visited Vassar again in early November, visiting classes and staying overnight. The visit clinched his decision. He recommends early decision for students who know where they want to go. He did caution that some people don’t get in early and are deferred to be considered as a regular applicant.

Kahn said some consider that a rejection, but it is not. “I would recommend early decision,” he said.

Big choices
One thing is certain. Cape students apply to, are accepted to, and attend good schools by any standards. A look at last year’s class can give a preview of where Cape graduates of 2002 could go.

The Cape class of 2001 sent 101 of 112 students to post-secondary education. Of that group, 95 went to four-year colleges, and the rest attended one- or two-year programs.

There were 81 students who went to schools outside Maine, and 72 went to private schools.

Some Cape graduates from 2001 stayed nearby, attending Bates, Bowdoin or Colby colleges, USM, SMTC, the University of Maine (in Orono and Fort Kent) and Maine College of Art.

Others left Maine but stayed in New England, at schools like Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth College, MIT, Northeastern University, Quinnipiac College and others.

Ranging further afield were students who went to Brigham Young University, Arizona State, Carleton College, Nashville (Tenn.) Auto Diesel College, Southwest Missouri University and University of Puget Sound.

Beyond the places Cape grads actually went last year are the schools where students were accepted.

Those schools include Brown and Princeton of the Ivy League, as well as “little Ivy League” members Vassar, Wesleyan and Wellesley.

Big schools like Florida State and the University of Connecticut have accepted Cape students, as have small colleges like Stonehill and Mary Washington colleges. Specialty schools like Massachusetts Maritime Academy and New England Conservatory have, too.

And many of the schools accept more than one Cape student, like Mount Holyoke, which accepted seven members of the class of 2001. Three of them attended.

Of the 19 Cape students accepted by the University of Maine, 5 attended, and two of the seven accepted at the University of New Hampshire ended up at that school.