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The Pros and Cons of Applying Early Decision vs. Early Action

In recent years, many colleges including the most competitive have been filling 30 to 70 percent of their freshman class through early decision or early action. Consequently, students who wait to apply during regular decision are competing with far more students for a smaller number of seats. Last year, the University of Pennsylvania filled about 50 percent of its freshman class through early decision whereas Johns Hopkins University and Williams took 40 percent of their freshman from the early round. Disparities between the prospects for acceptance of early decision applicants and regular decision applicants are often stark. Columbia University’s early decision acceptance rate for the class of 2015 was 20 percent versus six percent for regular decision applicants. Last year, Cornell accepted 35 percent of early decision applicants and 16 percent of those who applied through regular decision, while Brown’s figures were 20 percent in the early round and seven percent through regular decision.

Applying Early Decision
Students can only apply to one college early decision and if accepted they must attend. Deadlines generally fall in November and students are typically informed by the latter half of December of their application status.

-Significantly higher acceptance rates
-Many early decision schools have sizeable need-based financial aid programs

-You can’t change your mind
-You can’t compare college financial aid packages

Applying Early Decision II
It often falls a month or two after Early Decision I. In some cases if a student is rejected Early Decision I at one school and receives a letter of rejection, they may apply Early Decision II at a second school. Acceptance statistics are still unclear on this new practice.

Early Action and Priority Plans

Students can apply to several institutions under these rules, and have until spring to inform a college of their intentions. Deadlines in November or December are the norm and admissions decisions take a month or two.
-Higher acceptance rates than regular admissions
-Families can exercise all of their financial aid options at a number of schools, and more favorable aid packages may be available earlier in the admissions process
-You aren’t compelled to attend

-Lower acceptance percentages than early decision


Early decision and early action applications may enhance your admissions prospects and are worthy of exploration. Familiarize yourself with the admissions policies of every school to which you apply since they can vary. Top Test Prep offers tutoring and test preparations with admissions experts who can help you gain admission to your top schools.

David Dickson is a counselor with Top Test Prep. To learn more about applying early or getting help with college admissions counseling, call (800) 501-Prep today.

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