College Admission: Considering Early Decision or Early Action?

college admission early decision early action

Many colleges offer applicants an option of applying Early Decision, Early Action, or Regular Decision. This post is for students who are interested in exploring those options, understanding the difference between them, and learning how to make the decision of which one to choose.


Early Decision:

The Early Decision Option is binding, which means you are obligated to attend if you are accepted. Since you must attend the school if you are accepted, you can only apply to ONE early decision school.

Early Action:

The Early Action Option is non-binding, which means you don’t need to commit to the college until the deadline. While most of the colleges allow applicants to apply to more than one Early Action school, some colleges have something called the “Single-Choice Early Action” option. Under this option, applicants may not apply to any other Early Decision or Early Action schools. But they may still apply to other colleges via Regular Decision.

Regular Decision:

The majority of the college applicants apply via Regular Decision. This is a normal process with a later application deadline compared to Early Decision and Early Action. Students can apply to as many Regular Decision schools as they want.


So Early Decision or Early Action?


You have heard that applying to a college via Early Decision can increase your chance of getting in. And the truth is – you are right! Taking the Early Decision route does give you a better chance of getting in. But what’s the catch?


Again, you can only apply to ONE early decision school because if you get in, you are obligated to enroll in the school.


Therefore, you should apply via Early Decision only if:


  • You have a first-choice school that you feel very strongly about
  • The school’s financial aid package does not affect your decision of enrolling
  • You have no problem withdrawing other applications if you get into this school


So unless you feel 100% about your first-choice school, you should not apply via Early Decision because you will not have the option to make other choices once you get in.


According to an article on US News, here are some of the colleges who offer Early Decision and their acceptance rates:


Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Overall Acceptance Rate

Brown University



Columbia University



Cornell University



Dartmouth College



Duke University



Rice University



Vanderbilt University




What about Early Action?


If you don’t feel comfortable committing to one school, you may explore Early Action. For some students, Early Action is a much better option than Early Decision because:


  • You can typically apply to more than one Early Action school
  • The acceptance rate in Early Action is still higher than the acceptance rate in regular admissions
  • You still receive the admission decision from the schools early (usually in January or February), but you don’t need to make a final decision until April or May
  • Since you may be allowed to apply to more than one school, you can also decline the school’s offer
  • You can compare the financial aid packages offered by different schools

According to another article on US News, some schools that offer Early Action and their acceptance rates are:


Early Action Acceptance Rate

Overall Acceptance Rate

California Institute of Technology



Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Stanford University (Restrictive Early Action)



University of Notre Dame



Yale University (Single-Choice Early Action)



But Early Action is not for every student. You should NOT apply via Early Action if:


  • You have not done thorough research on colleges
  • You do not have enough time to prepare and submit the application by November 1st
  • You need strong fall semester grades in your senior year to bring up your GPA


Even though many schools offer Early Decision or Early Action Programs for prospective students, every school has different rules. If you’re interested in applying, make sure you check out their websites, look at their guidelines, and contact the admission representatives if you have any questions.



Photo Courtesy By Oran Viriyincy Via License

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