You can take advantage of Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) programs to speed up the admissions process, but what’s the difference between the two options?
Some students go into their senior year knowing exactly what college they want to attend. Some may not quite know, but they have a school they’re pretty sure about, and they really want to figure out where they’ll be during the next fall.
If you’re in either one of these positions, you should consider ED and EA programs. The typical regular college admissions schedule includes application deadlines around December or January, and admissions decisions around April. ED and EA move the timelines up a bit: applications are due around October or November, but you’ll find out whether you are accepted around December or January. Both programs are good fits if you’ve prepared your college application materials early (including standardized tests) and have a school that’s a clear favorite.
The difference between ED and EA is that ED is binding. In other words, if you apply via ED and are accepted, you must attend that school. With EA, you’ll find out the application decision earlier, but you can still decline and apply to other schools on the regular admissions timeline if you change your mind. Some schools offer both ED and EA options, but most only have one or the other.
Don’t assume you’ll get in everywhere you apply and don’t get discouraged either. Great experiences can come from places you never considered attending. -Tad M., Duke TIP alum
There are two other important considerations to keep in mind with ED or EA. If you are applying for either option, your grades from your Fall semester of your senior year will not be included in the transcript released with your application. This could negatively impact your application if you were depending on your Fall courses to increase your GPA or demonstrate you handled a rigorous curriculum well. In addition, committing to a school early means you will need to commit before you fill out the FAFSA form and will not have an estimate of available financial aid before you make the decision on whether or not to attend. This means it is crucial that you consider your college finances carefully before you request ED or EA. Use the net price calculator that is required to appear on every college website to determine your total costs before you commit to ED or EA.
Finally, if you’re interested in these options, you should research the school you want to apply to see if what they offer is right for you—but make sure you understand the regulations attached to it. Typically, in order to take advantage of a school’s ED or EA option, you must agree to certain restrictions: some schools won’t let you apply to any other schools via ED or EA, and some will only let you apply to certain schools until you get your admissions decision. In addition, there is often a difference in the number of students admitted as ED or EA versus regular admissions—some schools claim it’s more competitive, and some that it’s more accepting.