When your senior year comes, you have several different options for how you want to approach applying for college. Besides just the schools themselves, you can choose from up to three different application programs. Not all schools may offer all three (about 450 colleges in the U.S. offer Early Decision or Early Action programs,) but for those that do, it opens up your options.
What is Early Decision?
When you apply Early Decision to a college, your application is generally due by November 1st. The most important thing to know with Early Decision is that it is binding. This means that if this school accepts you, you have to withdraw all other applications and attend their school. Some schools will allow you to apply Early Decision to several schools, but some are “single choice.” Usually, you get your acceptance or rejection letter back during the month of December.
What is Early Action?
Early Action is similar to Early Decision (It’s early as well,) but it’s main difference from Early Decision is that it is not binding. If you are to receive an acceptance letter (usually around January or February,) you can wait all the way until May 1st to make your decision. This is great for people who want to know early but aren’t super committed to one dream school. However, not as many schools offer Early Action. Early Decision and Regular are more common.
Which one should I pick?
If you are looking to get ahead of the game, you should consider either Early Decision or Action since you will have to have completed your applications by November 1st. If you are still taking the SAT or ACT in your senior year, applying early may not give you your best chances. It’s better to apply regular with a stronger test score and application. Since Early Decision is binding, it is a good idea to make sure that this is your dream school. If there is any chance that you will want to pick a different school later on, you should not do Early Decision. However, if your family will need a lot of financial aid to afford college, Early Decision may not be best because it does not allow you to compare financial aid offers from other schools since you will have to attend that school regardless of where else you get in, or how much money you are offered. One last factor to keep in mind if you do go early, is that if you are rejected (hopefully not,) you will only have 2 weeks until regular applications are due. So even if you apply early, have applications ready for other schools just in case.