Early Decision Versus Early Action Admissions

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The difference between Early Decision & Early Action is this wide!

"The difference between Early Decision & Early Action is this wide!"

October is a busy month for high school seniors, especially those applying early for college admission next fall. Hundreds of colleges and universities welcome early applicants, setting deadlines from October 15th to early November for accepting their first wave of applications. Yesterday we shared tips about admission essays; today we’ll examine early admissions and your options.

Applying To College Now

If you already know which schools you are interested in attending, then applying early can be advantageous. A decision by the school is rendered in December or January, which can remove a tremendous burden off of the shoulders of high school seniors. Think about this – if you are accepted by Prestigious University early on, you can enjoy your final year of school without worrying where you’ll be the following fall. Moreover, some people are of the opinion that if you apply early, then you’re more likely to be accepted now then if you wait until the regular admissions process gets underway.

Your high school guidance counselor probably has gone over details with you about the early admissions process and the difference between early decision and early action, but as a reminder let’s take a look at the two options as well as examine a third choice offered by a handful of schools:

Early Decision – In short, early decisions are binding. This means that if you apply to a college which offers an Early Decision plan then you’re obligated to attend that school if it accepts you and offers a satisfactory financial aid package. You can only use “early decision” for one school, though that doesn’t preclude you from applying to other schools during the regular application process. However, if your “first choice” college accepts your application, then you must withdraw subsequent applications. You’ll also need to send in a nonrefundable deposit months in advance of the usual May 1st deadline.

Early Action – Apply to an Early Action college and, if accepted, you are not obligated to attend that school. In fact, you can hold off your decision until the Spring while also applying early action at other schools. Even if you are accepted in December you can wait until March or April to accept or choose another school. With this option students may also participate in the regular admissions process at other colleges and universities.

Single-Choice Early Action – A few universities including Yale and Stanford offer what are called “single-choice early action” or “restrictive early action” options where you can apply only to their school during the early admissions period. Schools make their decisions known by mid-December which allows students to apply elsewhere if they choose to do so.

Who Will Know?

Some colleges and universities offering early options share lists of students who have applied and been admitted by them. There is no national database tracking student applicants, therefore it is conceivable that some students may knowingly violate the process.

However, when your signature is on the line – as well as your integrity – you should know that if your falsification is discovered, the school can rescind their offer of admission.  Thus, be absolutely sure you’re willing to accept the constraints of an “early decision” school before applying.

Photo Credit: Harrison Keely

Adv. – Attention high school seniors! Are you narrowing down your list of schools to attend next fall or are you still searching for the right college? OffToCollege.com offers smart planning guides and tips to help simplify the decision-making process for college bound students. Get a jump today on exploring college aid options and check out our planning calendars to help you stay focused and on target.

Related Reading — Seven Things You Need to Know About Early Action

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Categories: Education Tips