The Ultimate Guide to Early Action vs. Early Decision

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By Toni Critelli

Selecting a college can be challenging, but once you’ve narrowed your choices, creating a strategy for submitting your application is crucial. Along with the standard, regular decision application process, you can opt for an alternative route, such as early decision or action.

In this blog, we delve into the nuances of choosing between early action versus early decision, comparing them to regular decision. We hope this helps you make an informed decision that aligns with your college goals.

Early action and early decision: How do they compare to applying regular decision?  

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While the regular decision deadline to apply to colleges typically falls between January and mid-February each year, applying for early action or early decision offers prospective students the opportunity to submit their applications and receive admission decision—you guessed it—earlier!

What this means as a prospective student is a valuable head start in the college application process and an opportunity to secure a spot at a preferred institution.

Submitting an early college application also offers other advantages for prospective students compared to applying for regular decision, such as

  1. Potential competitive edge. Early applicants often have higher acceptance rates than regular decision applicants. notes in a recent article, “Acceptance rates in earlier rounds are usually two or three times higher than in regular-decision rounds.”
  2. Less anxiety and stress associated with the college application process, allowing more time to focus on other aspects of high school senior year. According to The Princeton Review, 76 percent of students stress about the college application process.

Below we break down the difference between early action and early decision to help you make a more informed decision.

Exploring 4 Key Differences: Early Action vs. Early Decision

1. Nonbinding or binding application.

  • Early action is nonbinding, granting you the freedom and flexibility to explore other college choices even after acceptance. Before finalizing, you can carefully evaluate and compare admission offers, financial aid packages, academic programs, campus environments, and other factors.

  • On the contrary, early decision is a binding option; if selected, you must enroll at the college if accepted. This commitment demonstrates a high level of dedication and certainty in your college choice, emphasizing your strong desire to attend the institution.

2. Level of commitment to a college or university.

  • Early action provides more flexibility by allowing you to apply to multiple institutions simultaneously. Additionally, early action permits you to receive an admission decision early, allowing you to compare offers from different colleges before making a final decision.

  • Early decision allows you to apply to only one college. So, you must show a solid commitment to your top-choice college.

3. The flexibility of financial aid comparisons.

  • Applying for early action allows you to compare financial aid packages from different institutions before deciding. This enables you to carefully consider the financial aspects of your college choices, weigh the affordability and potential scholarship opportunities, and make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and circumstances.
  • When applying for early decision, you must be able to compare financial aid packages from different colleges before committing. It is essential to carefully consider and compare the financial assistance provided by each institution, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.

4. College decision-making timeline.

  • Opting for early action gives you the advantage of a more extended timeline to decide. By choosing Early Action, you can take the time to carefully consider your options and select the best path for your academic journey.
  • Early decision applicants receive an admission decision earlier in the college application process. By choosing Early Decision, you can have peace of mind knowing that you will receive a response sooner, allowing you to plan and make informed decisions about your future academic endeavors.

Do all colleges and universities offer early action and early decision?

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Many college and university admissions offices today allow prospective students to choose between early action and early decision alongside regular admission applications. While each institution may have its unique approach, some may offer both early admission options, while others may focus solely on one or even exclude early applications altogether.

Therefore, it’s crucial to dedicate some time to carefully review the application deadlines of your dream colleges and universities, ensuring you take advantage of all opportunities to showcase your potential.

A quick tip: To find if a particular college or university offers early action or decision, simply Google search: “[University or college name] Admission Deadlines.”

Making the best choice for you: Early action vs. early decision.

Choosing between early action and early decision requires careful consideration of various factors. By weighing these aspects, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your preferences, goals, and circumstances.

Consider choosing early action if:

  • You are still exploring other college options.
  • You prefer to receive an admission decision earlier in the application process.
  • You want to have the opportunity to compare offers and financial aid packages from multiple institutions.
  • You need more time to finalize your college decision and evaluate all available options.

Consider choosing early decision if:

  • You have a clear first-choice college and are fully committed to attending if accepted.
  • You are confident in your college decision and don’t need to compare financial aid packages from other institutions.
  • You want to show the highest interest and dedication to your top-choice college.
  • You are ready to withdraw applications from other colleges upon acceptance.

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Toni Critelli

Digital Content Creator

Toni Critelli is a full-time staff writer for Johnnie's Blog. Through engaging content, she captures the essence of the institution, its students, faculty, and alums.