Early Decision and Early Action

Two terms that come up during the college application process are early decision and early action. Many students either do not know about them or they do not understand them properly.

The term early decision refers to an application option where you apply to a school earlier than normal and will get a decision much earlier as well. However, if you are accepted under early decision, you are obligated to attend that school. The advantage to doing this is that you have a much better chance of getting in if you apply using early decision.

Early action is very similar. Early action requires an early application, usually around November, and you will get results much sooner, just like early decision. Early action is different from early decision in that you are not obligated to attend the school if accepted. While you also have a higher chance of getting in if you use this, early action is becoming less and less popular with colleges. It is increasingly being replaced by early decision as schools want to get a commitment out of students. However, many Ivy League schools still use early action.

So the question becomes, ‘Is early decision worth it and should I try it?’ The answer depends on each individual student. If students are in very good standing early in their senior year, these options can look very appealing. If this is the case, students should apply for early decision if they are certain about one school that stands above the rest or if they have several schools that are very equal and will most likely stay equal.

For students that are sure about a school being their top choice and do not need to use their senior year to better their application, using early decision is a good choice. Not only will they have a better chance of being accepted, but they will not have to worry about going through the entire process later. If they are accepted, the obligation to attend that school should not be an issue. If they are not accepted, they can then focus on the rest of their choices.

Students who have many schools that seem equal may also want to consider early decision. You mask ‘why,’ since they haven’t yet made up their mind. Well, they will have to make up their mind sooner or later. There is a chance they could mull over several equal schools for months and still not be able to decide. Using early decision will save them from this headache. They will also have a better chance of being accepted. If they are not accepted, they can then spend the remaining time looking at the other schools to decide.

Students who should not consider early decision are those that need their senior year to improve their application or those who have no idea where they want to go. Applying too early to a school without the application to back it up could close the door on a school that they might have gotten into later. Also, if students end up changing their mind after being accepted, it will be too late. They will still be obligated to go to that school.


Last Updated: June 4, 2019