Skip to content

Early Decision vs. Early Action

Many colleges offer early application programs.  The most common are Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED). Early Action programs are not binding, but some have restrictions. Early Decision programs are binding.  Aside from occasional exceptions, applicants must agree to enroll if offered admission through a school’s Early Decision program.  Many colleges and universities require applicants to explicitly agree to the school’s ED policy before being considered for Early Decision.  ED applicants deferred to the regular admissions round and subsequently admitted are not required to enroll.

Students are advised to carefully review the institution’s Early Decision policy prior to submitting an ED application.  Students should consider applying Early Decision ONLY if they are certain that the school is their first choice, and they are confident they will be able to afford to attend.

Admission definitions:

Admission options offered by some colleges – keep in mind that not all options are available at all colleges.

Regular Admission

Seniors apply by a deadline, receive letters of acceptance/denial from colleges and make an acceptance decision by May 1st.

Rolling Admission

Some colleges offer students the opportunity to apply and receive an admissions decision two to six weeks from the time the application was submitted.

Early Application

Two types of early application plans-one non-binding and the other binding-are offered by many colleges that also use the regular application calendar. Early application deadlines are usually in early Fall; check with the individual college for the exact date.

  • Early Decision:  This is considered binding,” so it’s essential that you be certain about wanting to enroll in that college.  As with Early Action plans, you submit an application in the early fall by the colleges stated deadline. Sometime before mid-January, the college notifies you whether you have been admitted, deferred to the pool of regular applicants for a spring decision, or denied admission to the college.
  • By applying under an Early Decision plan, you have made a commitment to attend that college and surrendered the right to wait until May 1st to make a decision.  Reneging on your agreement after being offered Early Decision admission could result in other colleges refusing to admit you.
  • Features of most Early Decision plans:
    • You may apply for Early Decision to only one college at a time.  Some schools also offer an ED 2 option.
    • You may also apply for Early Action or regular admission to other colleges during the fall, but once you are admitted under an Early Decision plan, all applications to other colleges must be withdrawn.
    • You can often be released from an Early Decision program if the college is unable to meet your need for financial aid.
  • Early Action:  This is a “non-binding” plan that requires you to submit your application in early fall.  The college sends letters of acceptance/denial by May 1, which gives you time to compare colleges and their financial aid offers before making a decision since an Early Action application does not commit you to enroll if offered admission.
  • Single Choice or Restricted Early Action:  Under this plan, colleges will accept an Early Action application that is non-binding, but students exercising this option need to understand and abide by the school Early Action specific Early Action policy which often entails NOT applying Early Decision to any other college and only applying Early Actions to public colleges and universities and those that require early submission for scholarship consideration.




Back To Top