As rising seniors consider their college applications, many are weighing Early Decision (ED) against Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD). Let’s clear the confusion.
Caution About Early Decision
Early Decision is binding. This means you can submit only one Early Decision application to your top choice school. Applications are typically submitted by November 1 and students get an answer in December or early January. If accepted, you promptly withdraw all other submitted applications and enroll in your Early Decision school. There is no opportunity to consider financial aid packages before committing. That’s a lot of pressure if your family is considering the cost.
With this pressure comes the advantage that the acceptance rate for students is higher during Early Decision. According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors, it is 15 percent higher overall. Only do Early Decision if you are completely sure about your school of choice, and do not need to compare aid packages.
Early Action can be helpful since deadlines are usually around December 1 and students get an answer in January. For many students, it eliminates the pressure of not knowing. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is non-binding, leaving plenty of opportunity to compare aid packages before making a final choice by May 1.
Regular Decision - The Traditional Way
Finally, for the student who got a slower start to high school and wants to continue improving their grades, Regular Decision may be the way to go. Deadlines are later, allowing an opportunity to submit updated transcripts, and maybe even test scores, from the first term of senior year. Like Early Action, there is ample time to compare aid packages as well as fit in another visit or two to find the best personal fit before paying the deposit.
So please proceed with caution.