is early action or early decision right for you?

Posted : September 2, 2004
Last Updated : August 21, 2020

is early action or early decision right for you?

If you already know where you want to attend college, you may want to think about applying early. There are two types of early application programs: early action and early decision. The following information will cover the basics to give you a better understanding of how each one works.

What is early action?

Early action is the early admission program in which applying early will get you an early answer. This program usually asks students to apply by November 1 and the college responds with a decision by mid-December. However, you are not required to make your decision until the regular May reply date, giving you time to compare financial aid packages between colleges. Early action is non-binding, which means you do not have to attend the college if you are accepted. The advantage of the early action program is that you find out whether you are accepted sooner rather than later, giving you time to enjoy the last few months of your senior year without having to worry about being accepted into college.

There are two types of early action programs:

  • Single-choice early action
  • Multiple-choice early action

With the single-choice early action program, you may not apply early (early action or early decision) to any other school. You may apply to other schools under regular admission. With the multiple-choice early action program, you may apply early action to more than one school.

What is early decision?

Early decision is similar to early action in that you can apply early (usually by November 1) and get an early answer from your college about acceptance (usually around mid-December). However, with early decision, there is a catch. Early decision plans are binding. This means that if you apply to a college via the early decision process, you must attend that college if accepted and offered an adequate financial aid package. Thus, you can only apply to one early decision school. You can, however, apply to other colleges under regular admission. If you are accepted by your early decision college, then you must withdraw all other applications. Keep in mind that early decision may not be your best option if you want to compare financial aid packages between colleges.

Early decision colleges usually offer students a better chance of admission if they apply early. When you research schools with the early decision option, check out the acceptance rates for students who apply early decision versus regular admission. The early decision acceptance rates are usually higher.


Application Type Is the Program Binding? Can Students Apply Early to Other Schools? Can Students Apply to Other Schools Under Regular Admission?
Single-Choice Early Action No No Yes
Multiple-Choice Early Action No Yes Yes
Early Decision Yes No Yes


Should you apply early?

Early admission programs can be very beneficial if you know exactly which college you want to attend and you don't need the rest of your senior year to perfect your grades or extracurricular activities. However, unless you are absolutely sure about which college you want to attend, you should not apply for early decision.

To get more information on early action and early decision programs, talk with your high school counselor. If you are having trouble deciding if an early admission program is right for you, your counselor should be able to help.

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