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Early Decision vs. Early Action: Do they help?

Early Decision vs. Early Action: What do they both mean for college admissions, and do they help?

Today, most colleges and universities have some sort of option for applying before the regular decision cycle. This could mean enjoying winter break with the peace of mind that you’ve already been accepted somewhere, but if you’re relying on grades during your senior fall to bring your GPA up, applying early is not well-suited for you. There are a number of important distinctions between these options that affect your overall strategy for the college admissions cycle, so as you consider your list of schools you should also note whether they accept early action or early decision:

Early decision is considered to be a binding contract. If you apply early decision, you will sign an agreement that states you will attend that college if accepted barring any financial hardships. Taking this option means you can only apply to one school (usually around November 1) before the regular decision cycle, so it should be a college that you absolutely want to attend. If you are not accepted early decision, you can apply to any schools via regular decision. It’s true that many universities tend to accept a higher percentage of their early decision applicants, but remember that these applicants are self-selective. Students with more competitive portfolios are more likely to apply early decision. For the schools, accepting these students means guaranteed enrollments, but if it means leaving another one of your favorite schools for the regular decision cycle, you might want to reconsider the commitment. Early decision applications are best suited for students who have a clear front-runner in their list of dream schools and they are reasonably qualified to be accepted to that favorite.

Early action is not binding. It’s an option to apply to a college before the regular decision deadline (usually in January), but you are allowed to apply to other colleges through early action. If you are accepted, there is no commitment to attend that college; you simply have a safety net as you await results on your regular decision applications.

Also note that:  Applying early decision or early action also can be very helpful if you’re applying to Ivy League colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, Penn, Brown, and schools like NYU, MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Contact our Ivy League College Counselors today at 1-800-501-7737.