ED vs RD - Pandemic GradesAnswered
I'd like to apply Early Decision to UPenn, but last year with the pandemic, my grades fell. My first-semester senior year grades will be perfect, but can I get these grades to be considered if I apply ED?
If not, is it more advisable to apply through Regular Decision due to my pandemic grade dip?
For context: courseload IB & AP, top 5% of class, strong extracurriculars, 34 act
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This is a tough call because the ED acceptance rate at UPenn was 15% and the RD acceptance rate was 4.2%. On the surface, it would appear that UPenn admitted cohorts at a rate of 3.6 times higher during ED vs. RD. But keep in mind that during ED, most Legacy, Recruited Athletes, Development Candidates, and Staff kids apply.
Last year 7962 applied to ED and they admitted 1194, but 416 out of 3202 total admits were legacies. Also each ED cycle UPenn admits about 275 recruited athletes, and say 15 development candidates and 25 sons/daughters of staff. So if you do the math, applying ED for someone that doesn't fall into those categories is challenging as well. Let's say 250 legacies apply ED, 275 recruited athletes, 15 dev candidates, and 25 staff kids. That's leaves 629/7962 or about 7.9%. It's still almost twice the RD rate but not 15%
Since you didn't post your GPA, I looked at the UPenn Common Data Set and read that the majority of admits had a 3.9 UWGPA. For the Class of 2025, the middle 50% percentile for ACT was 34-36 and for SAT 1500-1560.
Now if you have a 3.9 UWGPA, then I have to assume that you would be appling ED because if it's your #1 choice why not.
If your unweighted GPA is currently less than a 3.8, then I would say you have some risks in applying to ED because you are not a special case (recruited athlete, legacy, dev.cand., staff kid). And secondly, while you meet the 25% percentile of the ACT score at 34, that's not a solid position since 75% of the last class admits had a higher score on the SAT. 76% of admitted UPenn applicants submitted standardized tests scores and only 24% did not. So that kind of debunks the whole "you will not be penalized for not submitting a test score propaganda" and also debunks the whole "it's okay to submit a lower test score of 3 ACT points or 60 SAT points" because the test stats went up, not down.
If you can get your UWGPA up past 3.8 by applying RD I would do that. Also, if you can take the ACT one last time and get a 35, I would do that as well.
My take on the whole ED, EA, SCREA upcoming cycle is it's going to be more brutal than last year. Why? Last year no one really knew what the results would be, they just had a hunch that with test-optional, it would be better to apply early, so lots of people applied early. By the time 12/15 rolled around, RD applicants realized the admit rates were way down, so they applied to more competitive schools during RD to hedge their bets. They didn't know that admit rates for RD would be in the 2.5-6% for Ivys.
This year, everyone knows that their odds are better if they apply early. They might not have the flexibility or luxury of school options by doing so but they would rather get in somewhere good than risk not getting in at all. I could be wrong. My bet is that there will be more people applying early than last year and that at SCREA schools like Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton, 80-85% of the applicants will get deferred (a similar tale that happened this past cycle). Adding to the pile of applications will be more international students. From last year to this year, I certainly see many more CV inquiries coming from India, S.Korea and China, and South America.
There are not as many Class of 25 students taking deferred admissions (gap year) as the Class of 24 but still, I feel the numbers are high, perhaps 10% of the total class versus 20% like last year. So the gap year candidates from the class of 2025 will take up 10% of the available seats for the Class of 26. Since campuses are open, I also see more out-of-state applicants finally ready to venture outside of their zip code, county, or state to attend their dream school. So there will be more state diversity competition than during the Class of 25.
Whenever there is more competition, you have to have the best application file possible to compete. So besides what I suggested, I think it would be purposeful to tweak your entire narrative and make it as strong as possible.
I hope this was helpful to you. Good luck.
They're only going to see your first quarter grades, and not the full first semester, unfortunately. I think there's some balancing here. Applying ED would significantly elevate your chances of admission. Meanwhile, allowing for a full semester of As (assuming you do actually have perfect grades this fall) to elevate your GPA would also elevate your chances of admission.
In general, it's extremely difficult to get into a school like Penn with just one C or a couple of Bs. An additional semester may raise your GPA, but it won't expunge your lower grades. That said, last year was definitely a special circumstance, and many students had a very difficult time. Ultimately, admissions officers may be rather more sensitive to this than usual, if you explain it. It's hard to say, of course. You don't usually a
want to "throw away" an ED I opportunity on a school that will likely reject you. For the students for whom ED I makes sense, I often recommend picking a reach school instead of a super long reach, as this will make more of a difference in their chances. That said, there's always ED II, anyway. And you shouldn't apply ED to a school you don't truly want to attend.
The final piece is that - given your previously perfect academic record challenging courseload, excellent ACT score, and strong extracurriculars - even if you apply ED, there's a good chance you'll be deferred (and not rejected). If you were deferred, you would get to send your full first semester grades while you're being considered in the regular decision pool. If you're really, really set on Penn (and our chancing engine indicates you still have a chance), I might still go for it.
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