Early action vs. early decision

Early Action vs Early Decision

While many students are just beginning their college application process, some are already deep into their Early Action or Early Decision applications. This blog will give some guidelines when deciding Early Action vs. Early Decision and some pitfalls to avoid in this process.

The choice of applying with Early Action vs. Early Decision is usually an easy one. Early Decision is binding. It is an agreement between the applicant and the university that if accepted, the applicant commits to enrolling in the university. With Early Action  applicants are simply asking the university to accept them before they accept students from the general applicant pool.  Early Action and Early Decision applicants usually receive their acceptances in January and February. In fact, some schools inform their Early Action and Early Decision applicants of acceptance as early as December. For students who applied for Early Decision, their paths have already been laid out. Like Early ActionEarly Decision programs allow students to submit their applications early. Early Decision is binding. When applying for Early Decision the student is committing to attend that school if accepted. Since Early Decision is binding, students can only apply for Early Decision at one school. There is no limit, however, to the number of Early Action applications a student can submit, so students may still find themselves having to decide between several different offers even after they’ve made the Early Action vs. Early Decision choice.

Early Admission

Once you’ve started receiving Early Action offers, you will need to make a decision on which school you wish to commit to (since Early Decision is binding, you made that commitment when you pushed “submit” on the application). Acceptance via Early Decision means Early Admission as well. That means that the deadline for the student to accept and pay a deposit is also early. For Early Action students, the decision on whether or not to enroll will probably be easy, since most students submit Early Action applications to schools they are sure that they would attend if they are given the chance. Early Admission can be a blessing; students get all the college application stuff out of the way and are then free to focus on their senior year. There are a few factors to consider before committing to Early Admission, however.

Financial Aid

If the student filled out their FAFSA as soon as it became available on October 1st of that year,  Early Action and Early Decision recipients usually receive their financial aid package when they receive their acceptance. Of course, that is. If you applied to some schools through Early Action and other colleges under their regular application process, you may miss out on a more generous financial aid offer from one of the regular application schools you applied to. For Early Decision students, one of the few reasons a student can back out is if the financial aid package is not generous enough to allow them to attend.

Wait Lists and Deferments

Under some Early Action and Early Decision programs, a student may be denied early acceptance but will have their application reviewed again with the larger regular application pool. This means that even if you weren’t accepted in the Early Action or Early Decision rounds, you could still be accepted to the school of your choice. Of course, it is possible to accept admission to a college and change one’s mind later, and other than losing the money put down as a deposit, there aren’t any hard consequences to doing so. Some students will Double Deposit – accept and pay the deposit at more than one school just to hold a slot. This is considered unethical , especially with Early Action and Early Decision

Once the Early Action acceptance comes and you begin the Early Admission process, be thorough. Make note of the deadlines for reply, deposit, etc. Then take a deep breath and commit. Early Action will feel either wonderful or terrifying or some combination of the two.

If you are accepted to a school (whether Early Admission or through a regular application) and decide not to attend, you should let the school know as soon as possible. The acceptance letter will almost certainly have instructions on how to decline the offer. A brief email or the return of a form is all it would take, and you do not have to provide an explanation. Letting the school know may open a slot for a student on their Early Admission Wait List, allowing someone else to attend.

A Note on Senioritis

One of the best aspects of Early Action and Early Decision is that the college-bound student will usually have the whole process wrapped up and settled by the end of January. This will remove one source of stress and anxiety from the rest of Senior Year. But there may also be the temptation to put the semester on cruise control or, worse yet, slack off. Keep in mind that Early Decision and Early Action schools can and do rescind their acceptance of a student. If you are the type of student who is ambitious enough to try for Early Action or Early Decision, you’re probably the type of student who would want to finish strong regardless.

For even more great information on Early Action vs. Early Decision, college admissions, acceptance, and a host of other topics in education, I recommend U.S. News and World Report’s education blog: A lot of great information on Early Decision and Early Action can be found at the College Board website.I recommend the whole site, but the pages on Early Action vs. Early Decision are especially useful.

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