Differences Between Early Decision and Early Action Admissions

Differences Between Early Decision and Early Action Admissions
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    High school students eager to get a jump on college admissions can apply early with some schools accepting applications in October and November, then rendering a decision in December or in January.


Such colleges offer “early decision” and “early action” options, but the differences between the two plans are quite significant.

Early Decision

If you apply to a college with an early decision plan, then you should know that if you are accepted by the school, that you are obligated to attend there. You must agree to attend the college if accepted and a satisfactory financial aid package has been offered. Your only “out” here is the financial assistance — if you can demonstrate that the college’s aid package falls short, you may be able to have that decision set aside.

You are only permitted to apply to one college’s early decision plan. If accepted, you are required to withdraw your other college applications. You will need to make a nonrefundable deposit soon after acceptance, usually well before the May 1 national response day arrives.

Early Action

While an early decision plan is binding, an early action plan is not. Under this arrangement, you can apply early to a college, learn of its decision in January or February and choose whether to accept the offer or not.

With early decision, you still have until May 1 to decide whether you will accept the offer. If you do not, then you can consider other offers. However, if you also applied via an early decision plan at another college and were accepted, then you must withdraw your applications made to each early action college.

Your Choices

The binding nature of an early decision plan scares some students from making such an application. However, for the student certain that the college is his or her first choice, then an early decision plan can be the right way to go. To be considered, colleges will look at candidates that have a consistent academic record and have scored well in SAT or ACT tests, and also have a good grade point average and class rank.

Those high school students that are unsure of their college choice should not consent to an early decision plan. Some students need to concentrate on their senior classes and may want to wait to apply to college after the first of the year. These students should avoid an early action plan too even though such plans are nonbonding.


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