Should You Apply Early Action vs Early Decision?

Today is the deadline for Early applications and several of our seniors are submitting applications today. Below is a text from Princeton Review on Early Action vs Early Decision and important things to consider.

Many colleges allow applicants to submit their materials for an early deadline (sometime in the fall) that falls before the regular deadline (usually sometime in January or February). Here’s what you need to know.

Advantages of applying early
Show You’re Serious
Applying early lets your favorite school (or schools) know that you are serious about attending. Schools track how many applicants accept their offers of admission and release those numbers to the public. A school looks good when a high percentage of accepted applicants chose to attend. So if they think you’re likely to accept their offer of admission, it may give your application a leg up.

Cut Down on Admission Stress
If you are accepted to your dream school, you won’t have to bother with the time and expense of applying elsewhere. You can put your focus back on right now instead of one year from now.

Some students and high school counselors believe that applying early decision gives them better odds of acceptance, but the truth is early acceptance rates and admissions standards vary from school to school. You can find early decision application numbers and acceptance rates for many schools in our Best Colleges book, and don’t be afraid to ask an admission counselor at your dream school directly about their early admission practices.

There is a (potential) disadvantage to applying early, however. You may not have the opportunity to compare financial aid packages offered by other schools.

Early Action vs Early Decision
Most schools allow you to apply early in one of two ways: early decision or early action.

Early decision
Early decision is binding. This means if you are accepted through early decision, you are committed to attending that school, and will withdraw any applications you may have submitted for the regular deadlines at other schools. You may not apply to more than one college under early decision. If you are not accepted, you will either be rejected or deferred. Rejected applicants may not apply again that year. Deferred applicants will be reconsidered during the regular admission period, and are free to apply to other schools.

Early decision deadlines are often in November, and students are typically notified of the decision in December.

Early action
Early action is non–binding. This means you are not bound to attend if you are accepted. You may also apply early action to multiple colleges. Early action deadlines usually fall at the same time as early decision.

The obvious advantage of early action over early decision is the opportunity it gives you to apply to, and ultimately compare financial aid packages from several schools. If you are accepted early decision, you risk missing the admission deadlines of other schools while you wait for your award package to arrive. If that award is lackluster, your options are fewer.

Our Advice
If you’re sure that you’ve found your best-fit school, you know it’s one you want to attend, you’re a strong candidate for admission, and you know that you can afford the tuition, go ahead and apply early decision.

That is a whole lot of research and comparison to have done by fall of your senior year, though, and if you’re uncertain about any of those factors, you’re not alone! Keep your options open by applying early action, or by the regular deadline.

Early Action and Early Decision Colleges

If you plan to apply early action or early decision to colleges, here’s a reminder that Early Action is non-binding and Early Decision is binding. Most schools have a deadline of November 1 to apply early.

Here’s more information from the College Board on Early Decision versus Early Action:

Early decision (ED) and early action (EA) plans can be beneficial to students — but only to those who have thought through their college options carefully and have a clear preference for one institution.

Early decision versus early action
Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. Counselors need to make sure that students understand this key distinction between the two plans.

Approximately 450 colleges have early decision or early action plans, and some have both. Some colleges offer a nonbinding option called single-choice early action, under which applicants may not apply ED or EA to any other college.

ED plans have come under fire as unfair to students from families with low incomes, since they do not have the opportunity to compare financial aid offers. This may give an unfair advantage to applicants from families who have more financial resources.

ED applicants

  • Apply early (usually in November) to first-choice college.
  • Receive an admission decision from the college well in advance of the usual notification date (usually by December).
  • Agree to attend the college if accepted and offered a financial aid package that is considered adequate by the family.
  • Apply to only one college early decision.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Withdraw all other applications if accepted by ED.
  • Send a nonrefundable deposit well in advance of May 1.

EA applicants

  • Apply early.
  • Receive an admission decision early in the admission cycle (usually in January or February).
  • Consider acceptance offer; do not have to commit upon receipt.
  • Apply to other colleges under regular admission plans.
  • Give the college a decision no later than the May 1 national response date.

 

Who should apply early? Applying to an ED or EA plan is most appropriate for a student who:

  • Has researched colleges extensively.
  • Is absolutely sure that the college is the first choice.
  • Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically.
  • Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college for SAT® scores, GPA and class rank.
  • Has an academic record that has been consistently solid over time.

Applying to an ED or EA plan is not appropriate for a student who:

  • Has not thoroughly researched colleges.
  • Is applying early just to avoid stress and paperwork.
  • Is not fully committed to attending the college.
  • Is applying early only because friends are.
  • Needs a strong senior fall semester to bring grades up.

Click here for a list of Early Action Schools

Click here for a list of Early Decision Schools