Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Regular Decision: Everything you need to know to make a decision

Updated: May 11

Before we begin this blog, let us congratulate you on taking the first big step towards a bright career- the decision to apply to college. As a high school student, you would already be shortlisting the colleges you would be applying to. But this blog is not about which colleges to apply to, but a more important decision regarding ‘when to apply’.


Admission counselors try to make the application and admission process as smooth and straightforward as possible. This decision, in particular, can be difficult and complicated.

When it comes to applying to institutions, undergraduate students have a variety of alternatives. Before applying, it's critical to understand the differences between early decision, early action, and regular decision so you can choose the best option for you. Read on to find out how each application option works, what criteria to consider when deciding between your alternatives, and how to figure out which application method is best for you.


Early Action


This kind of application requires students to submit their applications before the regular deadline with no obligation to attend if accepted. Early action is a non-binding admission method. Students will also be informed of their admissions decisions sooner than regular applicants.


Pros

1. The biggest advantage of applying early action (EA) is the flexibility of applying to as many colleges as you can with no obligation to accept the admission offer.

2. You have enough time to make your official final decision until May 1 which means that you can weigh your options well.

3. Applying Early Action typically gets you a response by mid-December which may mean an early Christmas for you! This also means that you have enough time to focus on things like scholarships.


Cons

1. Applying Early Action obviously brings your application deadline a month or two sooner than the Regular Decision deadline.

2. Early Action gives you less time to invest in your college essays

3. The applicants applying early are observed to have much higher scores and much more impressive profiles than those applying regular. So, the competition is tighter.



Early Decision


Unlike early action, early decision is a binding agreement which means you can apply to only one school and are obligated to attend if accepted. Early decision is for those students who are sure about their scores and profiles and have narrowed down their choices to one favorite college.


Pros

1. Early decision typically has a higher chance of acceptance.

2. You’ll receive an admission decision in December leaving you enough time for celebrations and of course other plans

3. With an early admission decision in hand well before others, you will become stress free way before your peers

4. You’ll be left with plenty of time to apply to other schools if your application is turned down


Cons

1. For students needing financial aid, it's also not advisable to apply early decision since you won't get the opportunity to compare aid packages from other colleges


Regular Decision


While Early Action and Early Decision applicants get the admission decision typically around mid-December, that’s when Regular Decision applicants can start applying to colleges. However, this is the most preferred admission method, and is a great option if you are planning to retake your SAT/ACT to increase your chances of acceptance or to get scholarship.


Pros

1. You can invest more time in your college essays

2. If you need more time to improve your scores and strengthen your application, and if you're still contemplating which college is the best for you, going regular decision would be the best move for you


Cons

1. If your application gets rejected, you’ll have a very tight schedule to rethink your college choice and plan your next move


Like everything else in life, decisions play a huge role in planning your undergraduate journey. The application method you choose depends on the colleges you choose, because not every college allows you to apply early. Early Action and Early Decision applications make sense if you have a strong preference for a particular school and you meet all the per-requisites.


Writers Qi is here to help you not just apply to colleges but plan your admission strategy as well. Book a consultation with us to understand the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ behind college admissions.

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