How to choose between Early Decision & Early Action?

Updated: Oct 25

When applying to universities in the US, we come across many different deadlines for our applications and that can get confusing. In this post, we intend on simplifying this process and explaining what these deadlines mean and how to choose between them. There are four different types of deadlines that you’ll come across and they are:


  1. Early Decision: This type of application is considered to be legally binding in the sense that you can only apply to one school for Early Decision. In the case that you do receive an offer, you are expected to accept it and attend. Most universities are very serious about this as well. A contract is usually signed, no it’s not a legal document but it states that you will abide by the decision if you get accepted. Most of these applications are due in November and in certain cases, two rounds would be available to students. If you’re outside the US, there is a possibility for some flexibility in the process especially if you have conditional offers from universities outside the US.

  2. Early Action: This is not legally binding and you are even allowed to apply to different universities through the early action option in your applications. Even in this case, most of the applicants have to apply by November, but there could be earlier deadlines as well. Be sure to check them out beforehand.

  3. Restrictive Early Action: This is also a non-binding program but the university does not want you to apply to any other early binding program elsewhere such as in the case of Harvard University. They are also due in November, mostly.

  4. Regular Decision: These are the normal applications that we send to universities and the deadlines can vary depending on the school and what kind of application programs they offer. You can apply to an unlimited number of schools without any binding program. The range is between Mid-October to Late-January.


There is also an additional type of admissions cycle known as Rolling admissions where you can apply at any time of the year and hear back in time for the next term. Universities keep reviewing applications as and when they come by them. The trick here is to apply early because once the spots are full for the upcoming term, you have to wait for the next one and that could take a bit of time.


Here are some of the admit rates for the previous admissions cycle!



Credit: collegetransitions.com


Why should you choose Early Decision?


There are many factors that come into play here and this firstly, it depends on what you want from the university. Do you feel like this is a good fit for you? You’ve managed to see the school, run through their course, speak to current students, and realized that the atmosphere is exactly what you want from college? Or if your grades are within the required range for that particular university, then you should go for it. You have a feeling that your chances are higher of getting in and so does your counselor, then not give it a shot?


Another thing to factor in is whether or not you will be able to pay in time, because universities tend to make a financial package and send it to you in case you get accepted, so you would be expected to do so. It also depends on the school and whether they are highly likely to accept more students in the early decision round. Do your research before applying to colleges. Since it is legally binding, you should give this serious thought.


Why should you choose Early Action?


Early Action is not a binding decision but much more thought needs to go into the process. This is a good idea when you are absolutely sure that you want to attend the university you’re applying to and have all the materials you need to apply in time. When you get an early acceptance, it does change things and reduce the amount of stress you would have in the last year but there is also a downside to it. You could not get into the place you were so sure of getting into and could become demotivated. In this case, it is best to re-evaluate your application and understand the shortcomings. It would help you create a better application for the regular decision round!


How to make a decision between both?


This is where your own research and thought process comes into the picture. Think about what you want from your college experience and look up universities that can offer you that. Did you find any that fits the bill? Research them further and see why you would be a good fit. Answering this would also help you answer the questions in your application! Look for affordability, so it is best to discuss it with your parents or guardian and look at options for financial aid. If your scores and other aspects fit the bill, think about whether you really want to go there or have a backup plan? The ones who need a backup plan should definitely apply for early action, but those who are sure and after good consultation decide that they could get into their dream school, they could go for the early decision.


Before doing all this, be sure to check your profile against the university’s student profiles and see how you match up. A key factor over here is demonstrated interest and that should be reflected in the application as well. It’s best to consult somebody like your counselor or even get external help in the process as it would be constructive and you could get a clear idea of what you should do.



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