Denied? Early Decision isn’t the End of the Road!

Early decision is when students apply to one school before the regular application and admission period. If the student has been accepted to the school, they must attend. Those who aren’t accepted have their application rolled over to the regular application pool. Having an application roll over doesn’t mean the end of your educational career. It doesn’t even mean you can’t get into your top choice school. It means that you have a second chance to better your application.

We spoke to admissions expert Deb Erdner about the early decision process. Deb is vice president of Centralized Application Services (CAS™) operations at Liaison International. She has worked a decade in admissions, with five years in undergrad admissions and five years in medical school admissions. Previously, Deb was director of admissions at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she was responsible for the recruitment, admission and retention of students applying to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program.

Deb answered a few questions from to assuage any fears you may have about not being chosen for early decision. (EHC): What may prevent someone from being chosen for early decision?
Deb Erdner (DE): Too many people apply. Early decision is something that you have to lock yourself into. As a school, you want to choose the applicants who are the best fit. They want to take people that are going to be the best and support you down the line as an alum.

EHC: What advice would you give to a student who has just been rolled over?
DE: Don’t give up. [Being put into the regular application pool] doesn’t mean you won’t get in. During that time, try and make your application be the best it can be for that program. My brother applied for early decision at his dream school and he was rolled over to regular admission. It was tough at first, but he didn’t give up and was put into regular decision. He ended up being admitted and graduated from there.

EHC: Do you suggest reaching out to the program?
DE: Yes and no. If it’s something you feel strongly about, then yes, reach out, but there is a fine line. You don’t want to bother the admissions team. You want them to know that you’re trying to make your application better, but you don’t want to be remembered for being a nuisance.

Feeling like you’re alone in this process? Most applicants don’t get in during the early decision phase. For example, the Harvard Crimson reported that Harvard University granted early decision acceptance to only 14.5 percent of their applicants. If you’re looking for programs that have high early acceptance rates, consider this list provided by U.S. News & World Report. Don’t take being put into the regular decision pool as a “no,” you still have a chance to get into your first choice school!


Interesting that you never once mentioned having the student reach out to their pre-health advisor, or if in high school, to their guidance counselor! These folks have “boots on the ground” and know the stats for other students from their institutions. Their insight is invaluable and they can be a resource who can reach out to schools on the behalf of the student! Nor do you suggest they call the school and ask about any open houses or tours being offered that might allow them to be “seen” before decisions are made. Adding these ideas might be the difference between an acceptance early or not.

Thank you, Lolita, for this helpful feedback! It’s clear that you have a lot of expertise when it comes to this topic. We’d love to have you write a guest post if you’re interested in sharing more about your experience and your tips for applicants. Can you please email if this is of interest to you?

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