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Early Decision Vs Early Action: Pros and Cons

Early Decision and Early Application plans can be advantageous to students. However, these decisions can be binding and is only beneficial if the student has carefully chosen his college options and has a clear preference towards one institution.

What is Early Decision?

Early Decision plans are binding. This means that if the college admits you and offers enough financial aid, you must attend that college. Thus, it has to clearly be your first choice of university. Although you may apply to additional colleges through the regular admission process, the student must promise to withdraw all other applications from other schools if accepted. The early decision application deadlines are usually between 15th October and 15th November. You will receive an admission decision from the college usually within a month of applying. You must send a non-refundable deposit well in advance on May 1st.

What is Early Action?

Early action is not binding, meaning you do not have to commit to the offer. You will receive an admission decision earlier in the admission cycle, usually in January or February. You can apply to more than one Early Action college, you can also apply to other colleges in the regular admission plan. If you’re accepted, you may give the college a response either way (accept or decline) by May 1st, the national response date.

University of Pennsylvania offers an excellent course to learn about Applying to US Universities which you can access here

What is Single Choice Early Action?

You can apply early to only one college. Otherwise, this is the same as other early action plans. You can still apply to other colleges through the regular admission process. You don’t have to give your final answer to the early application college until May 1st.

Who should apply Early?

A student who has done extensive college research and is completely sure of his first choice should use this option. If you have found a college that matches your checklist on every factor, academically, socially and geographically. If you meet or exceed the admission requirements for SAT, GPA and class rank. If you have a strong overall profile and have been consistent with your grades, then the ED or EA plan is appropriate for you.

Join University of Pennsylvania course on applying to US Universities to understand the process in more depth. You can access the course here.

Who should not apply early?

A student who has not fully and thoroughly done his college research, if you have not completely committed to attending the college, you should avoid the early applications route. Do not apply early because your friends are doing so or you want to avoid stress and paperwork later. If your grades have not been consistent and you need the last semester to bring them up, this plan is not appropriate for you.

What are the benefits of applying early?

For a student who has their mind set on a particular college, applying early has its benefits. it reduces stress by cutting the waiting time to get a decision from the college. It saves the time and expense of writing and submitting multiple applications. In case you are not accepted, it gives you time to reassess your profile and apply to other colleges within your reach. If you are accepted, it gives you ample time to look for housing, speak to others attending and generally be more prepared.

What are the disadvantages of applying early?

Firstly, you are under immense pressure to decide on a college without exploring all your options. You have to be extremely confident in your decision. You may have lesser financial aid options. A student that applies early receives their financial aid package simultaneously and thus will not have the option to compare financial aid offers from other colleges. If you are focusing on financial aid, this may be a risky option. If you are waiting for an answer on your ED, you will only be notified of the decision by the 15th of December thus leaving you in a time crunch with all your other applications. In case you are not accepted, you only have two more weeks for all other applications therefore it is advisable to prepare other applications simultaneously as well. In many cases students who receive an early acceptance tend to feel that their goal has been accomplished and they no longer need to worry about their final grades thus letting them drop. Early admission students should keep in mind that colleges can rescind offers if their grades fall significantly.

Does applying early increase your chances of admission?

It is often perceived that students applying early may be competing with a smaller pool of applicants thus increasing their chances of getting accepted. However, this is not always the case. All colleges vary in the proportion of the class admitted early and in the percentage of early applicants they admit. You may be competing with a pool of stronger applicants for ED than in the regular admission cycle. Students may ask the admissions office the percentage of students accepted for ED and regular cycle.

Tips for Early Applicants:

ED and EA specifics vary from college to college therefore please ask the admission team for all the information at your first- choice college. You must take the October SAT or SAT subject tests in order for your scores to reach in time to the college.

Some Colleges offering ED (Early Decision)

  • Columbia University
  • New York University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Drexel University
  • Boston University
  • Cornell University

Some Colleges offering EA (Early Action)

  • Yale University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Babson College
  • Berklee college of music
  • Princeton University
  • Loyola Marymount university
  • Georgetown University
  • …… And many more!

You can understand these terms and how to navigate your way through these options in more depth at the University of Pennsylvania course about Applying to the US

Author: Kritika Malhotra

I am a career advisor and admissions counselor at Stoodnt. I have been in Education for the last 7 years. I have completed my education from Les Roches Switzerland and have worked for leading Swiss, US and Australian universities.

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