Private Vow Dispensation
If a person makes a private vow before he is received into the Catholic Church, is he still bound to the vow after he becomes Catholic? Also, when it is said that one can commute a private vow to an "equal good," how does one discern what good is "equal"?
I think it depends on the legitimacy and the relevance of the matter onto which the vows were made. It also depends on what sort of solemnity was involved.

About the first issue: vows committed on anything illegitimate or bad, irrespective of the fact that you made them before becoming Chatholic, are by nature null and void. You may also have committed to something that has no moral nature whatsoever;  It think vows threon are also null. For instance, vows to observe the rules of Shabbath are null, as the matter is irrelevant. You don't commit to anything that has no use.

On the other issue, a real vow implies a very solemn commitment; it is like giving your word to God. If you just promised something (provided it is legitimate and relevant) to yourself or to an idol (read: Brama, the People of Israel, the Earth, etc), you are not really bound by it.

On the other hand and for instance, if you solemnly committed to your parents and your siblings that you will take care of them in old age, I guess you are bound by it, irrespective of your conversion!!
That would depend on what the vow was. I would recommend asking about this in confession. 

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