According to a 2012 New York Times’ “The Choice” blog piece, many colleges are seeing record-number, double-digit increases in Early Decision and Early Action applicants. Is early admissions right for you?
For students who want to get a leg up on their college applications, there are Early Action and Early Decision admissions periods, where students can turn in college applications before the regular deadlines that are typically in the spring.
According to Niche data, based on roughly 200,000 applications from 125,000 college students, students’ chances of getting accepted to a school are 18 percent better if they apply through Early Action or Early Decision than through Regular Decision.
**Note: These are aggregates across all schools. Acceptance rates at particular colleges will vary and may be dramatically different than the national average.
And according to a Niche user poll, 45 percent of students believe that applying early will help their chances of getting accepted.
Yet, despite the belief that early admissions helps secure an enrollment spot, 56 percent of students surveyed are still applying through Regular Decision or Rolling admission. In order to alleviate any confusion, here are the main differences between the Early Action and Early Decision processes.
What is Early Action?
Early Action allows prospective students to apply earlier to a school, typically in the late fall, and find out whether they have been admitted sooner. The student can either commit to the school after being admitted or wait until the spring to make a decision.
Best of EA
- Non-binding (accepted students don’t HAVE to commit)
- Many schools have higher acceptance rates for those that apply early.
- Can commit right away or wait until spring
- Whether accepted or rejected, it allows for better time management.
- Ideal if students know which college they’d like to attend
- Students can apply to multiple schools through Early Action programs.
Worst of EA
- Committing too early could prevent students from exploring all financial aid options.
- Applying/being accepted early might make students slack off with the rest of their final year of high school.
If students would like to bring their senior year HS grades up for college applications, this may not be the best route to go.
Sidebar: What about Single-Choice Early Action/Restricted Early Action (REA) plans?
Single-Choice Early Action/Restricted Early Action (REA) plans make it so students can only apply to one college, but with the same rules as “normal” Early Action. Think of it as a hybrid of Early Action and Early Decision. Prospective students can still apply to other schools via regular admission, and if they are accepted to their Single-Choice Early Action/Restricted Early Action (REA) school, they don’t have to commit; however, they can only apply to one school through SCEA/REA as opposed to applying to a variety of Early Action schools through regular EA.
What is Early Decision?
Early Decision offers the same kind of deal as Early Action, with early admittance and notification, except that it’s binding, meaning that students must attend that particular school if they are admitted through Early Decision. If they apply through Early Decision, get admitted, but want to attend a different school, then they will have to pay a fee or other consequences. When students are accepted through Early Decision, they are obligated to withdrawal all other college applications.
Best of ED
- If students have their hearts set on one particular college, this is probably the best route to go.
- If a student is accepted to an ED dream school, it allows him or her to find out right away and enjoy the rest of his/her senior year of HS.
- If a student is rejected from an ED dream school, it allows him or her to come up with a new game plan/apply to other schools.
- Some data show that students that apply through ED are more likely to be accepted.
- Get a head start in connecting with future collegiate peers.
Worst of ED
- Students can only apply to one college through Early Decision.
- Binding, meaning students HAVE to attend if they are accepted.
- If a student is accepted, there is a fee if he or she tries to get out of attending the Early Decision school.
- Accepted Early Decision applicants only get one financial aid offer.
- Harvard no longer offers early decision programs because they tend to “advantage the advantaged”—meaning wealthier students are more likely to benefit because of the more expensive financial aid packages.
Sidebar: What about Early Decision II?
Some schools offer Early Decision II in addition to Early Decision (I). Generally, Early Decision II would work the same way as Early Decision I, just on a different time frame or schedule.
Can you ever get out of Early Decision penalty fees?
Some students have avoided an Early Decision commitment based on financial reasons. For example, some ED contracts require the admitted to enroll only if they are offered an adequate financial aid package. If students aren’t offered a sufficient amount, they may be able to get out of attending the ED school. Sometimes calling the admissions office at the ED school and explaining your situation may also help in getting out of a commitment.
On the other hand, if you do manage to get out of the ED contract, whether for financial or other reasons, the ED school may tell the other school about your situation, resulting in no college acceptance offers, so tread lightly.
The best rule of advice: Don’t apply to an ED school willy-nilly. Take careful consideration and read the ED rules before proceeding.
A good way to remember the difference between EA and ED: Early Action is being proactive with your college admissions; Early Decision requires an actual decision. Every school has different Early Action and Early Decision time periods and regulations, so it’s best to thoroughly read through a prospective school’s EA and ED rules before applying. Here’s a list of all of the schools that have Early Action, all of the schools that have Early Decision, and all of the schools that have both.