Early Decision and Early Action

There are a lot of components involved in selecting the right college.  Is the college a good match socially, academically, geographically, and financially?  Is the student capable of meeting the entrance requirements?  While you are taking these considerations into account, you may hear the admissions officers using terms like Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA).  Have you wondered what that means?

I know a few students who have just submitted their college applications.  It can be a stressful process, and not knowing what these terms mean can add to the stress.  It is important that college applicants understand the meaning between the two, and which one is best for them.  Here is some necessary information about Early Decision and Early Action.

Early Decision is binding.  Students who are accepted as ED must attend that college.  ED is best for students who have done an extensive amount of research on colleges and universities.  They have a strong sense of what they want to study.  They are applying to their number one choice and meet all the entrance requirements for SAT scores, GPA, and high school ranking.  ED applicants will typically hear from the admissions office by December with the final decision.  They have agreed to attend the college in advance if the offer is made and the financial aid package is acceptable.  These students will also submit their non-refundable deposit well before the typical May 1st deadline.

Early Action is a non-binding plan.  Students will receive an offer early (usually January or February) but don’t have to make a decision until May 1st.  These students may have applied to other schools under the regular admissions process.  EA is better suited for students who are considering more than one university but have still done extensive research on various schools.

You should not apply for school with an ED or EA plan for many of reasons.  ED and EA is not suited for everyone.  Plenty of students should hold off and follow the regular admissions process.  These students are those who did not do their homework and are just applying to colleges without much knowledge of the particular schools. They could be applying because a friend is applying. They are doing the work early to get it done and over. They aren’t overly interested in college to begin with or, lastly, they need the fall semester to bring up their GPA.

I caution students against applying early if they are only doing it because it seems like the thing to do.  There are negatives to going through an ED or EA process.  They can include:

  • Stress to get everything in on time with the pressure to decide early.
  • Limited financial aid options.
  • Senioritis – the feeling that everything is complete, and now the student can goof off.

Many may argue that applying early will increase their odds of getting accepted to college.  This is not the case either.  Many universities will regulate the number of applicants accepted under ED, EA and regular admission.  Universities all have numbers for incoming classes that are targeted.  They will pace themselves through the application process.

Do the research. Know what you are getting involved in before you step into the ED or EA process.  Remember, for many this is the way to go, but it is definitely for a particular student.  Know who you are as an applicant.



Much of the information above was gathered from https://professionals.collegeboard.com/guidance/applications/early

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