Applying to college isn’t just about your GPA, test scores, or how well you’ve done. It’s about finding the right college that fit you as a student. And that’s what the colleges want as well. Well, college admissions can be a tough and demanding process, and requires hours of hard work and preparation. Each year, thousands of American high school seniors apply to colleges. They spend hours improving their grades to strengthen their application. That being said, there are two major early admission programs colleges offer – Early Action and Early Decision.
What is Early Action?
Early Action (EA) is a non-binding action, kind of an early admission process that allows students to apply to as many schools as they want earlier than regular applicants. Those acceptances are non-binding, which means as students you don’t have to commit to any of them until the regular decision deadline. The term non-binding itself suggests that you are not bound to attend if you are accepted. You can think of early action as a faster way to move up the applicants’ list – it’s simply applying to college early.
Applying through early action is a great strategy because it lets a school know of your interest ahead without narrowing your options. The early action applications are typically due in early November, and students receive a decision from the college in mid-December. Students who opt for early action often have a greater chance of getting admitted, which can help reduce stress and uncertainty in the college application process.
What is Early Decision?
Early Decision (ED) is yet another early admission process many colleges and institutions offer, but unlike early action, it is a binding agreement between a student and the college or institution. A binding action means as a student you can apply to only one school and you are committed to attending that school. If you are accepted to a college through the ED process, then you are bound to attend that college and withdraw from all other applications regardless of whether it offers any financial assistance.
ED typically benefits top-performing students who have identified their first college of choice. Because of the uncertainty of the financial assistance, often the wealthy students opt for the early decision process as it increases their chance of getting into elite schools of their choice. The early decision deadlines may slightly vary, with most falling on November 1st or November 15th.
Similarities between early action and early decision
- Early Admission – Both early action and early decision are early application programs many colleges or institutions in the United States offer. Both EA and ED students can apply earlier than regular applicants. This can be advantageous for students who want to avoid the stress and uncertainty of waiting for a decision and instead focus on other aspects of their senior year of high school. However, one is a binding action whereas other in a non-binding action.
- Application Deadline – With both EA and ED, students need to submit their college application earlier than the regular decision. The deadlines for submitting the applications for both EA and ED fall between October and November of the senior year of high school, and the students receive the decision from the college typically in December.
- Non-Restrictive Early Action – Some colleges and institutions offer yet another option called non-restrictive early action (REA), which is somewhat similar to early action but students do not need to commit to attending the college if they are accepted. This enables students to apply early and receive an admissions decision sooner, while also allowing them to compare offers from other colleges and make a decision later.
- Competitive Advantage – EA and ED both are great strategies that can provide students with a competitive in the college application process over the regular applicants. Students who apply early demonstrate a strong interest in the college and have a greater chance of getting accepted. Additionally, colleges may accept EA and ED applicants at a higher rate than regular decision applicants. As a result, students who apply early may have a better chance of acceptance.
There are hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States that offer early decision, early action, or both. A few elite institutions offer early action but require that students approach only one institution. Overall, both early decision and early action are beneficial for students who know their college of choice and are confident in their ability to apply early. While there are some overlapping points between the two, you should carefully weigh in the benefits and drawbacks of each option before making a decision.
Is there a downside to applying early action?
While there are many benefits of applying to early action, there are some potential downsides to it too, such as limited time to improve application, less time to consider other options, and increased pressure from the college to perform. Also, applying to early action does not guarantee admission. Students may be deferred to the regular decision pool.
Is early action better than early decision?
Both options have advantages and disadvantages, and the best option will largely depend on the student’s preferences, goals, and needs. With both the options, applicants have a higher chance of getting accepted. EA students however, have a greater chance of getting admitted because they demonstrate even greater commitment.