Early Action vs. Early Decision: Which to Pick | Student Life

⏱️  3 min read

written by

Kaitlin Arnold

kaitlin arnold

August 4, 2020


Navigating college applications can be extremely stressful, especially when you don’t know what the different types of applications and decisions mean! Early action (EA) and early decision (ED) applications are two types of admission applications that differ from the rest, so it is important to know how they compare to one another and if you would like to apply as either type of applicant (or both!). 

Early Action

Applying to a college as an early action applicant means that you not only have to submit your application earlier than regular decision applicants, but you also receive your decision earlier. Deadlines to apply hover around either November 1st or November 15th and decisions are typically released around mid-December. 

The biggest distinction between EA and ED applications is that early action is not binding. This means that you can apply to as many schools as you want as an EA applicant. Additionally, if you get into one of those colleges as an EA applicant, you do not have to go. You still have until May 1st to pick a college. 

Early Decision

Similar to EA applications, early decision applications are due earlier than regular decision applicants. Primarily, this deadline is either November 1st or November 15th with decisions coming out mid-December. 

ED is binding, however. This is the notable difference between the two types of applications. You can only apply to one school as ED because if you get into that university, you are committed to going. If there are extenuating circumstances, then you can be excused from being tied down to that college. Nonetheless, you should be prepared to commit to that one college if you apply ED. 

Since ED applications are binding, it is best to only apply ED if you have a dream university that you want to go to and would be excited to be committed to. I would not suggest applying ED if you are unsure about which university you would like to attend. 

Why Apply Early Action or Early Decision?

Due to early action and early decision applications having a due date before regular decision applications, there is a smaller pool of applicants that apply EA or ED. Therefore, you have a better chance of getting into a university if you apply either way. 

Remember that even if you apply EA or ED, you can still be deferred. Being deferred means that you did not get accepted or rejected. Instead, your application has been deferred to the regular decision pool of applicants and you will have to wait until regular decision deadlines to hear a final verdict from that college. 

So, Which Do You Pick?

Some schools offer both EA and ED applications while some schools offer just one or neither. It is best to research what each school offers before applying. 

As I previously noted, applying ED can be risky because if you get in, you have to attend that university. ED applications are suggested for students that want to go to one school in particular and would have no trouble committing before hearing back from other schools. 

EA might be better for you if you simply want to receive your decisions back early. Since it is not binding, you can apply to as many colleges as you want as an EA applicant and you can reject your admission, accept your offer, or wait to hear back from all of the colleges you applied to. 

Be sure to research universities and choose the schools that you believe would be the best fit for you. That will help you decide if you want to apply as either type of applicant. You can also choose to not apply as either type of applicant and stick with regular decision applications. The choice is yours! 

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