If you’re a senior in the middle of college applications, you probably know at least a few people who are applying early decision or early action. And if you’re a junior, you may heard a lot of different things about each. However, we want to clear up a few of the myths surrounding the early application cycle.
Both early decision and early action allow you to submit your application earlier than the regular admission deadline. Normally, early decision and early action applications are due in fall and admission decisions are issued in December or January. However, early decision is binding, meaning you’re agreeing to attend the college if accepted. For obvious reasons, you can’t apply to multiple schools early decision. However, early action is non-binding, meaning that you’re not obligated to attend the school if they accept you.
If you’re applying to a school early decision, you can still apply to other schools that offer early action or rolling applications. However, you’re obligated to attend the school you applied early decision to if they accept you.
Since early action isn’t binding, you can apply to as many schools as you would like. The only exception to this is when schools only offer “single decision early action.” With single decision early action, you cannot submit early action/early decision applications to other schools. However, you can still apply to schools during regular or rolling admissions, and you’re still not obligated to attend the school to which you applied single decision early action.
This will vary from school to school. Many schools are need-blind, meaning that they accept students without considering their financial status. Even if the school is not need-blind, most schools assess aid on the basis of family need as well as merit. In other words, a promise to attend will not be the biggest factor in the size of your financial aid offer.
The biggest financial drawback to applying early decision is that you cannot compare aid packages. If your early decision school gives you only half as much as a school you applied to early action, then you’re in a difficult position.
Though many schools report a (slightly) higher acceptance rate during early admissions cycle, this is not necessarily because they are more generous with the acceptance letters. Rather, it’s because the applicants are usually of a higher caliber. Most colleges will say that applying early admissions does not significantly increase a student’s chance of acceptance. Every year, a large number of early admissions applicants are deferred, meaning their application will be reevaluated during regular admissions.
This is true for some students, but certainly not all. If you’re trying to bolster a shaky academic record, you might be better off waiting to apply until later in senior year, when schools can see your fall semester grades. If you feel like your application speaks for itself, more power to you. But if you think that the additional time could significantly improve your application, consider taking advantage of those extra months. It’s better to submit a high-quality essay in March then it is to submit an essay you dashed off the night before the November early action deadline.
Early admissions can be a great opportunity for some students, but it’s certainly not advisable for everyone. Make sure you carefully consider your financial needs as well as the admissions processes of your target schools before you make your choice.