When Alexandra Ehrenman's parents called her to let her know an envelope had arrived from Bucknell University, she wanted to know whether it was fat or thin.
It was fat, they told her, and she asked them to open it. That's when the 17-year-old Commack High School senior found out she had been accepted via the early decision process.
"It hasn't hit me yet that I got into college and I don't have to worry about it anymore," she said Tuesday.
Students across Long Island and the country are learning this month whether they have been accepted into the school of their choice as colleges inform those who have applied early. Early decision is a binding agreement, and accepted students must attend that school. But applicants do not know how much, if any, financial aid, they will get. Early action means an early application that is nonbinding.
Only a small percentage of schools offer an early action or early decision application process, and more than half have seen an increase in applications, said Melissa Clinedinst, assistant director of research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va.
"Definitely more students are applying this year than past years. With early decision, it shows they are extremely interested in the school, as the college application process has become more rigorous and colleges have been more selective," said Crystalia Haramis, school counselor at Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station. So far, Whitman students have been accepted to Cornell University and Columbia University.
Students in the Half Hollow Hills School district in Dix Hills learned recently of acceptances to schools including the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Barnard. Donna Gross, director of guidance for Half Hollow Hills High School West, said more students are applying through early decision.
"Early decision is for those students who have decided that if they get into the school of their dreams, they are definitely going," Gross said, adding that at many colleges, about 30 percent of students are admitted early versus 8 or 9 percent admitted on the regular schedule.
Massapequa High School officials also have seen an increase. Some students have already heard, and others are expected to hear Wednesday, which is the deadline at many colleges, said Lou Sabatini, director of guidance for the high school.
In the William Floyd school district, in Mastic Beach, about 10 to 20 students apply for early decision each year; school officials have not seen an increase this year among the 750 high school seniors. Officials there say financial aid is a consideration. "They want to know if they are going to get a package first before they go into a binding relationship with a university," said Kim Nisbett, the district's coordinator of counseling.