If you find a college that you're sure
is right for you, consider applying early. Early decision
and early action plans allow you to apply early (usually in
November) and get an admissions
decision from the college well in advance of the usual spring
notification date. You’ll know by
December or January whether you've been accepted at your first-choice
Sometimes, students who apply under these plans have a better
chance of acceptance than
they would through the regular admissions process. These plans
are also good for colleges,
because they get students who really want to go to the school
to commit early in the process.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
You should be aware of the differences between early decision
and early action before
sending in your applications. The exact rules may vary somewhat
by college. Check with
your counselor to make sure you understand your rights and
Early decision plans are binding. You agree
to attend the college if it accepts you and offers an adequate
financial aid package. Although you can apply to only one
college for early decision, you may apply to other colleges
through the regular admissions process. If you're accepted
by your first-choice college early, you must withdraw all
other applications. Usually, colleges insist on a nonrefundable
deposit well before May 1.
Early action plans are similar but are not binding,
unlike early decision. If you’ve been accepted,
you can choose to commit to the college immediately, or wait
until the spring. Under these plans, you may also apply early
action to other colleges. Usually, you have until the late
spring to let the college know your decision.
Single-choice early action is a new option offered
by a few colleges. This plan works the same way as
other early action plans, but candidates may not apply early
(either early action or early decision) to any other school.
You can still apply to other schools and are not required
to give your final answer of acceptance until the regular
||Can Apply Early to Other Colleges
||Can Apply to Other Colleges
Under Regular Admissions
|Single-Choice Early Action
Should I Apply Under One of These Plans?
You should apply under an early decision or early action
plan only if you are very sure of the college you want to
attend. Do not apply under an early decision or early action
plan if you plan to weigh offers and financial aid packages
from several colleges later in the spring. Also, you shouldn't
apply early if it is advantageous to have more of your senior
year work to show a college.
Which Colleges Offer Early Plans?
More than 400 colleges offer an early decision plan, an
early action plan, or both. Use our College Search to look
up each college you're interested in and see if it offers
these options. You can also find this information in the College
Handbook. Some colleges have chosen to discontinue their early
decision and early action plans because they are potentially
unfair to students who rely heavily on financial aid. There
is a concern that students who apply early may be limiting
their financial aid opportunities and feel forced to make
a decision without adequate time to consider all aid awards
Do Your Research
Before applying to an early decision or early action plan,
research all your options to decide which college is the right
one for you. You can use College Search to find schools that
match your preferences.
You do not have to apply early decision or early action;
they are simply options you might want to consider. Talk with
your parents about whether it is in your best interests. It’s
important that they understand there might be financial implications.
Get advice from your high school counselor and other trusted
advisors before applying to a college as an early decision
applicant. Your counselor is a trained, objective professional
who serves as your advocate in the college search process.
A Last Word of Advice
In the fall, it may seem appealing to get the college decision
over with, but you may find your goals changing as your senior
year progresses. On the other hand, you may be confident of
thriving at a certain college. If so, you're the type of student
early decision was created for.