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College Admission: Early Action vs. Early Decision


Admission definitions:

Admission options offered by some colleges-not all options are available at all colleges.

Regular Admission

Seniors apply by a midwinter deadline, receive letters of acceptance/denial from colleges in early April, and make an acceptance decision by May 1st.

Rolling Admission

Some colleges offer students the opportunity to apply and receive an admissions decision two to six weeks from the time the application was submitted.

Early Application

Two types of early application plans-one non-binding and the other binding-are offered by many colleges that also use the regular application calendar. Early application deadlines are usually in early Fall; check with individual college for exact date.

  • Early Decision:  This is considered "binding," so it's essential that you be certain about wanting to enroll in that college.  As with Early Action plans, you submit an application in the early fall by the colleges stated deadline. Sometime before mid January, the college notifies you whether you have been admitted, deferred to the pool of regular applicants for a spring decision, or denied admission to the college.

  • By applying under an Early Decision plan, you have made a commitment to attend that college and surrendered the right to wait until May 1st to make a decision.  Reneging on your agreement after being offered Early Decision admission could result in other colleges refusing to admit you.

  • Features of most Early Decision plans:

    • You may apply for Early Decision to only one college.
    • You may also apply for Early Action or regular admission to other colleges during the fall, but once you are admitted under an Early Decision plan, all applications to other colleges must be withdrawn.
    • You are released from an Early Decision program if the college is unable to meet your need for financial aid.
  • Early Action:  This is a "non-binding" plan that requires you to submit your application in early fall.  The college sends letters of acceptance/denial by May 1, which gives you time to compare colleges and their financial aid offers before making a decision, since an Early Action application does not commit you to enroll if offered admission.

  • Single Choice/Early Action:  Under this plan, colleges will accept an Early Action application that is non-binding, but students exercising this option may apply to only one school Early Action, and may not apply Early Decision to any other college. Sometimes this is also referred to as Restrictive Early Action.