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Early Action and Early Decision: How to Decide

As students work diligently on their US uni applications, many are contemplating which decision pathway to use. Universities in the US offer multiple deadlines for applications. However, these deadlines are not arbitrary. Rather, each pathway has unique advantages for students. At A-List, we aim to make the US university admissions process transparent so you can make informed and thoughtful decisions.

Here is what you need to know about Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision so you can choose the right application strategy and get accepted into your top choice uni.

Early Decision:  This deadline is November 1st for the majority of US unis. Also, this application strategy should only be used if you have a clear first-choice school. This type of application is legally binding. You, your parents/guardians, and your school counselor will all have to sign a legal agreement committing you to attend this school if offered a place. Though this may seem very serious, Early Decision applications also offer a strategic advantage. Because a school can count a student as definitely enrolled, they often give preferential treatment to ED applicants! This means, your chances of being accepted Early Decision are often better than if you apply regular decision. Also, you will receive your offer before the end of December. Some schools also offer Early Decision 2—with the same legal commitment but the deadline is January 1st. This pathway also offers a strategic advantage, though not as significant as ED1. Some schools accept over half of their students in the Early Decision pool making is a very compelling option for the most selective schools.

Early Action and Single-Choice Early Action: This application is also due November 1st however, it is not legally binding. If the school offers Early Action, you can apply to multiple schools early and also have offers by the end of December.  However, because it is not legally binding, this application pathway doesn’t offer as many strategic benefits as Early Decision. Yet, it does allow you to signal to a school that you are quite interested. Single-Choice Early Action has the same deadline as EA and is also not legally binding. However, the “Single-Choice” means you can only apply to one school early. Thus, you will not have the ability to weigh multiple offers. Harvard and Yale are two schools that offer this Single-Choice Early Action.

Regular Decision: This is deadline is January 1st for the majority of schools! It is not legally binding and for students who are pursuing opportunities in multiple higher education systems, it is likely the best option. Also, even if you have decided to apply Early Decision or Early Action, you should still work on Regular Decision applications in case you do not get accepted from your first-choice school. Regular Decision applicants begin to receive offers in the middle of March and have till May 1 to decide where they would like to attend.

Deciding which application strategy is right for you may require some professional advice. The Advising Team at A-List would love to help you make this decision! Please feel free to reach out to us for a consultation.


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