Plan For College

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Early Decision vs. Early Action

Here at the Plan For College blog, we're starting to see the fall in the near future. And for all you rising high school seniors out there, it is college planning crunch time! 

Today, we want to talk about applying early to college. Early applications typically take place in November, so it is time to prepare. Although the rules may vary a bit depending on each college, here is a general framework for understanding the difference between Early Decision and Early Action:
    (chart source:

Early Decision
Early decision applications are binding. This means that if you are accepted to the college through early decision, you are agreeing to attend that college. You are allowed to apply to other colleges through the regular admissions process, but those applications must be withdrawn if accepted early decision.

Therefore, you may only apply to one school through early decision. Only apply to a college in this way if you are 100% sure that is your number one choice. Also, you must be sure you are OK with the financial aid package offered, because you will not be able to consider packages from other schools if accepted.

Early Action
Early action is similar to early decision, but it is not binding. If you are accepted, you can commit right away or wait until the spring. Also, you will have the ability to apply to other schools via early action and through regular admissions. Applying through early action will demonstrate to the college that you are very interested in their school, and could give you a better chance.

We recommend applying through early action to your top choice or choices if you want the ability to consider multiple options.

A final warning!
Applying to school early and finding out in early winter can be very appealing to some students. It allows you to get it out of the way and focus on the rest of your senior year. However, do not apply early simply for this factor! The extra time may allow you to find your true dream school, and time offers you the ability to find the best fit.


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