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Hi there,

As an international student who'll seek substantial financial aid, is it advisable I apply ED to any school? Especially with COVID-19 and its economic impacts on schools.

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If you are a very strong candidate versus an average candidate who applies to the college you had in mind, it always makes sense to apply early because a.) the college wants to fill as many seats as possible with the best students, b.) there is more financial aid available at the beginning of the cycle versus the end. c.) and if you have excellent test scores that reflect you are in the 50% to 75% percentile of previous admit scores that's a plus as well.

If however, you are not a very strong candidate with your chancing % less than 20%, that's more of a judgment call on your part. If you do not have an ACT or SAT test score, I would use this time to secure one in the November testing. Or if you do not have the best-written essays or recommendations, again I would use this time to present the very best version of yourself if the school is very competitive. There is no point in rushing to apply if you are not ready and well prepared. Also, keep in mind that at some top schools like MIT the difference between applying EA or RD is negligible, I think they are both 7.3%. However, the difference between applying as an Int'l student vs. domestics is significant like 3.4% versus 8.4% so it's 2 1/2 time harder applying as an Int'l student to begin with. Use your time wisely.

I don't know what school you are applying to but research to see if their acceptance rate is much higher for ED or not. And evaluate whether or not you feel confident to present your application early given all the moving parts in this application cycle.

With regards to Financial Aid, all the colleges that are need-blind like Harvard, MIT, etc will not care whether you check off the tick box that you are applying for financial aid. However many other colleges like UPenn, Syracuse, Wash U, Tuft, Occidental, Macalester, Colgate, Colby, etc are need-aware especially for Int'l students so they are going to be more flexible during the EA, ED process if you can pay a substantial portion of your costs. It would not make much sense to apply to those anyway if you are relying on financial aid. Sure you might get in but then you have to figure out how to pay for it.

Hope that is useful advice. Good luck with your decision.

Great answer here - just wanted to add that one downfall is not being able to compare and negotiate finaid packages. Please run your info through net price calculators to get an estimate of your costs. This will help you figure out whether or not you can afford the school.
Unfortunately, that's not an option for int'l students.
But if I apply to RD to a school, and submit my application months before their RD deadline, does it have any bearing on my application?
Oh, apologies! That definitely makes things harder, unless you apply to a school that's known for being super generous with int'l students, like Amherst. As for your second question, submitting an app early under RD usually doesn't have a big impact: https://blog.collegevine.com/is-there-an-advantage-to-submitting-college-applications-early/