Difference between Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision Applications

Does the thought of applying to college make you wince? Do you feel like you have no idea where to start? When someone mentions college, do you react like this?


Applying to college can be an incredibly confusing process. Taking a moment to understand the different kinds of applications will help you figure out how to get started!

Early Decision and Early Action:

For both Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) applications, you’ll need to send in your application earlier than for Regular Decision (RD) applications. The deadline for these kinds of applications is usually November 1st, but this date can vary by school. ED is binding, so you can only apply ED to one school, and if you’re accepted, you must attend that school. On the other hand, EA applications are non-binding, so a student can send multiple EA applications to different schools (that accept this kind of application), and can then decide which offer of admission to accept in May.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying ED/EA:

Applying ED or EA to a school is beneficial because it demonstrates your strong preference for that school, and the ED/EA application pool is smaller, so applying ED/EA can increase your chances of being accepted. Moreover, if you submit an ED/EA application, you’ll receive a response from the school before RD applications are due. This means that if you’re accepted, you can avoid the fees and stress involved in sending out multiple RD applications. However, don’t wait to hear back from the school before starting your RD applications because if you’re rejected or waitlisted, you’ll only have a week or two to get your other applications in order. Also, if you’re not completely certain that you would like to attend a certain school, it’s better to send in an EA or RD application rather than an ED application to keep your options open. Because ED applications are binding, if you're accepted to the school, you won’t be able to compare that school’s financial aid offer with those of other schools. Thus, while applying ED might give you a better chance of getting in, it also limits your ability to get as much financial aid as possible.

Regular Decision:

Applying RD means that you submit an application usually by January 1st. This kind of application is non-binding, so you can submit as many RD applications as you’d like, and you’ll likely hear back sometime in March. This option gives you more time to complete your application, and it allows you to consider and negotiate financial aid offers from multiple different schools before deciding which one to attend. If you’re not sure exactly where you want to go, applying RD is probably your best bet.

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