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Early Action vs. Early Decision

You’ve assembled the List.

Dream schools? Check. Match schools? Got them. Safety schools? Identified.

There’s one that you really love. Should you declare that love and prove your fidelity by applying early?

What does that even mean?

Many colleges allow applicants to submit their materials for an early deadline sometime in the fall (before regular deadlines), usually between November and January.

There are some advantages to applying early.

First and foremost, applying early demonstrates to your favorite universities that you are serious. Many universities will release the number of applicants who accept offers of admission (a high percentage of applicants choosing to attend shows a school in a positive light).

So if they think you’re likely to accept their offer, your application may have an advantage.

And if you are accepted to your dream school, your stress vanishes. You can focus on enjoying your senior year instead of dozens of supplementals.

This, of course, depends on the school. Early acceptance rates and admissions standards vary from school to school, and both have similar deadlines. Early action and decision rates are available online from a variety of sources.

But the best way is the direct way: Call your dream school’s admissions office for its specific practices.

The downside to early action: You won’t have as much time to determine if the school is a good fit. However, you are not obligated to attend.

Early decision, meanwhile, is binding.

Students accepting through early decision commit to attending that school and must withdraw regular deadline applications to other schools. Students can only apply early decision to one university. Rejected applicants may not apply again that year. Students who are deferred will again be considered during the school’s regular admission period. Once deferred, students are free to apply to other schools.

Flaking on an early decision acceptance? Each college advisor we’ve spoken to strongly advises against this. If you reject a college that accepts you early decision, there are consequences. Schools are in contact with each other, and a reputation for flaking out may follow you. In other words, only apply early decision if you are certain.

Students applying early action are not obligated to accept a university and are free to apply early action to several colleges.

Early action’s obvious advantage: Students applying early action can consider several schools and several financial aid packages.

Our advice? If you’ve found your forever school, you’re a strong candidate for admission, and know you can afford the tuition, early decision is a strong option.

If there is uncertainty, then early action or regular deadlines may be your best option.

The most important part of the college application experience is the opportunity to explore what you’re looking for and what schools can offer.

No matter what choice you make, we just encourage you to make sure it doesn't take away from your opportunity to see what’s out there!

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