While most students know the basics of applying to college, they may still be confused about the different ways they can apply early, or even if applying early is right for them. Over 450 colleges and universities have early admission plans, so it is likely you will run into these types of decisions during the application process. In this article, we’ll go over the two main types of early college admission decisions, as well as their pros and cons.

Early Decision

We’ll start with the more binding admission plan you may already be familiar with: Early Decision. When you are accepted to a school Early Decision, you are making a binding decision to attend and rescind any other college applications. These applications are usually due in November, and students will receive an admission decision well before the typical spring notification date (December most commonly).

Students should apply to a school Early Decision if it is by far their first-choice school. The Dream School. The biggest pro to applying ED is demonstrating interest. You are only allowed to apply to one college Early Decision. The only exception to this is if you are not offered an adequate financial aid package, which brings us to perhaps ED’s biggest con: oftentimes you will not receive your financial aid package at same time as your admission decision. Therefore, Early Decision should really only be used for a school you want to go to no matter the cost or what other schools you may get into down the line.

One last note: you still can (and should) apply to schools Regular Decision even if you apply to an Early Decision school! And don’t wait until you hear from your ED school to start your application, because regular applications will be due just a week or two after receiving your early admission letter!

Early Action

On the other hand, Early Action is much less restrictive. These applications are also due earlier in the fall, usually in October/November. Unlike Early Decision, students may apply to as many Early Action schools as they desire, the benefit here being they receive an admission decision much earlier than students who apply on the regular due date.

Think of your Early Action schools as your Dream School Lite. You should apply Early Action to places you already have researched (or hopefully even visited) and know that you would like to go to, but maybe don’t feel as strongly about. Like Early Decision, you won’t receive your financial aid package at the same time as your admission letter, so it may be better to wait until the regular due date to apply.

Applying Early Action can be a helpful way to spread out the college admissions process by having due dates throughout the fall and winter rather than all at the end of the year!

And that’s it! That’s all you need to know about the difference between Early Action and Early Decision college admission decisions!

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