With all the buzz surrounding early applications, it's easy to get caught up in the frenzy. It's not uncommon for students to say, "I want to apply early, but I just don't know where". When that happens I suggest that they're putting the cart before the horse.
You should focus less on early application opportunities and more on identifying colleges that actually meet your academic, personal and financial parameters. Only after you've thoroughly researched colleges and identified several that meet your needs, should you begin to think about early applications. If you'll want to compare financial aid offers, steer clear of early decision. In all cases, carefully read the early decision and early action program stipulations, including all restrictions.
Hello. This is a great question! The various Early Action and Early Decision plans offered by colleges can be quite confusing. In addition, it can be difficult figuring out which option is best for you. Many resources provide information on admissions deadlines for each of the admission plans offered. One website that I recommend is collegedata.com. Enter your college name and click on the 'Admissions' tab. It will give you admissions deadlines for each of the admission options for that institution. Another reliable method is to google admissions deadlines for your specific college. Another way that I highly recommend is to work with an Independent Educational Consultant. IEC's generally pay for a resource that helps students organize their admissions options and identify the schools to which they will apply with which plan. This helps students prioritize and lay out a timeline.
Keep in mind that only one college can be applied to under an 'Early Decision' plan as that option is binding in the event that you are accepted to that institution. Early Action is a method that I highly recommend for any college that offers that option as you can apply early and receive notification earlier than the Regular Decision applicants. It can relieve a lot of stress early!
I hope that helps. Good luck with your college search!