Early Decision vs. Early Action

The college admissions process can be tricky.  Nowadays, there are several different admissions programs through which you can apply to college.  Applying through a college’s early admission program is becoming more and more popular for college-bound high school students.

There are two types of early admission programs that most colleges offer.  They are referred to as “Early Decision” and “Early Action.”  Although the names are quite similar, they are actually quite different.  In this post, I’ll explain the difference between them.

  • Early Decision

If you decide to apply to a college’s early decision program, then you are REQUIRED to attend the college if you get accepted. While this is a common early admission program, it indicates to the college or university that you consider this school to be your #1 choice.

If you do have a school on your list that you will absolutely attend if you get accepted, then the early decision program might be the right choice for you.  However, if you want to be able to weigh all of your options when the rest of your acceptance letters are received, then this is not the right option for you.

Students who apply early decision are typically required to submit their application by the end of October of their senior year of high school; a decision is typically received in mid-December.  Whereas students who apply through the regular admissions process typically submit their application by January 1st and receive their admissions decision by April 1st.

Since the early decision application process is binding, students must limit their early decision application to one school.  If the student is admitted, he or she must withdraw applications that were sent to other schools.  A student may be excused from the early decision commitment if little or no financial aid is received.

  • Early Action

Early action programs require students to submit their application by November 1st of their senior year, rather than the early January deadline.  Students who apply to this program also receive a decision in mid-December, instead of early April.

However, unlike early decision programs, early action programs are not binding and offer much more flexibility. Students have the option to decline the offer if they are accepted to the school and may apply early action to more than one school.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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