Applications, Essays, Where to Apply, Strategy, and More

Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Admission: What Should I Choose?

March 04, 2013
Written by Rachel B. Rubin

If not, here's some information you should know:

ED and EA are two application plans. While their names are similar, they have important differences.

  • ED plans are binding. If you apply ED to a college, you must attend that college. You have committed.
  • In contrast, EA plans are non-binding. If you apply EA to a college, you will find out if you were accepted earlier than you would if you apply during the regular application deadline, but you do not have to commit to the college until the regular reply date (typically May 1).
  • To make matters more confusing, a small minority of colleges offer another plan called Single-Choice Early Action. This plan is also nonbinding, similar to other EA plans. However, under this plan, you may not apply EA or ED anywhere else.

These plans all differ from Regular Decision plans with regard to their application deadline and response date, although only ED plans require a commitment to attend a specific school.

To help you determine whether you would like to apply ED, EA, or Regular Admission, here's a quick guide:

If you apply ED, you will:

  • Apply early (usually in November) to your first-choice college
  • Apply to one college only
  • Receive an admission decision approximately one month later (usually December)
  • Agree to attend the college if accepted
  • Apply to other colleges under Regular Admission Plans if you have not received an answer from your ED college before the Regular Admission deadline
  • Withdraw any applications you have submitted under Regular Admission if you are accepted by ED

If you apply EA, you will:

  • Apply early (usually in November) to as many colleges as you'd like
  • Receive an admission decision in January or February
  • Commit at any time, if you choose to do so
  • Apply to other colleges under Regular Admission Plans
  • Give all colleges a decision by the national response date (May 1)

In addition, if you're thinking about applying ED, you should only do so if you are completely confident that your top choice college is:

  • A solid fit for you in all areas (academically, socially, financially, geographically, etc.)
  • A better fit than other colleges to which you have a high likelihood of acceptance
  • A viable option given your application package (grades, SAT/ACT scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, etc.)

Lastly, make sure to fully research colleges before submitting an ED application. If you are not 100% confident that you know which college you would like to attend, apply EA or submit your applications under the Regular Admission deadline instead.

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