When high school seniors were considering which prestigious colleges to apply to, they likely thought about applying early to their top choice. Early Decision (ED) is a binding decision that means if accepted, the student is obligated to withdraw their other applications and enroll at the school. Typically, the only way out of the ED binding contract is due to insufficient financial aid.
Not only do universities get to lock in some of the brightest students for their freshman class early, but students benefit from this type of decision too and will often see higher acceptance rates. Many top schools like Brown University, Rice University, Cornell University and Duke University have an Early Decision option. In the past few years, as more schools have adopted test-optional policies, the acceptance rate trends have changed rapidly.
There are many different things contributing to these changing acceptance rate trends. More students are applying early decision. A rate that has been increasing over the past few years. Also, many more universities continue to place priority on accepted underrepresented or first-generation students. This is leading to more underrepresented students gaining admission. There have been big changes in acceptance rates, and colleges simply are not releasing data more students going test optional. Our article on Forbes goes into more detail on all of these topics and more.