Early Action or Early Decision?

No one knows more than seniors in high schools when the college deadlines are closing in. Palms start sweating on the keyboards, mental breakdowns line up one after the other, and words suddenly don’t make sense when you look at Common App. It’s like becoming a ball of nerves and along with applications are early action and early decision options. 

    Hey, seniors! Breathe! Filling out college applications is enough to make an 18-year-old want to pass out, but with some pointed guidance it should be do-able. One thing students should always consider when applying is early action or early decision options. While not all schools have these options, it’s important to know if your choice of school does because both of the options are time sensitive. Just like everything else, each option comes with an advantage and a disadvantage. Let’s dive in. 

     Well, what is early action and decision? What’s the difference? Early action allows you to submit your application to your choice of college early! Your application will stand out in the decision pile separate from the regular decisions. Even though it’s not a guarantee that you will get into the college, it does help increase your chances by a little bit and with the bonus of finding out whether or not you’ve been accepted before others. The other great thing about early action is that it’s not binding. You are not contractually binded to a college, meaning you do not have to attend that college even if you are accepted, if you choose to apply with early action.

     However, things are a little more different for the early decision option. This is the option you should give some more thought to. With early decision, you also apply early and usually with the same deadline of early action. The difference is that an early decision binds you to college meaning you will have to attend that college if they decide to accept you. This doesn’t mean the college has to offer a scholarship or a financial package and you’ll be obliged to pay for the tuition. Because of this reason, students are advised to look at everything before applying with early decision to avoid getting themselves into an unretractable situation. Once again, early decision will let you know before regular decisions whether you have been accepted or not, and if that’s the college you dreamt of going to, congratulations! You will have to go there. If not, do not apply early to a college you do not want to go to for sure. 

    Even though most colleges and universities offer both early action and early decision options, certain Ivy Leagues such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale allow a restrictive early action. Restrictive meaning you can only apply to that college with the early action option. If you decide to apply to other institutions, you’ll have to apply regularly. What does this mean furthermore? You can only apply to one Ivy League early action and you  may apply early to a public or foreign university provided the option is non-binding.

    With both options, comes some thought. Sit down with your list of colleges and write the pros and cons for each college to narrow down your decision of what really ranks high on your list. Most acceptance letters come out during December or January and regular decisions come out in the end of March and early April. Again, seniors, breathe! You will get through this. Talk to your guidance counselor or a student that has already enrolled in college to help you with the application process. Everything will be alright, I promise. Now, go get into college!