We’ve posted information about the differences between Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted (or Single Choice) Early Action, Rolling Admission and Regular Decision in past articles, but if you aren’t quite sure of what these mean, this post is for you!

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Early Decision

  • Binding contract.
  • Student, school counselor and parents sign an agreement saying that if student is admitted, s/he WILL ATTEND that school.
  • Must withdraw all other applications if admitted.  This means you will never find out if you would have been admitted to UC X or Y Other College.
  • Must place a deposit at school within a few weeks of being admitted.
  • Counselor agreement says the counselor will ONLY send the student’s final transcript to that college if student is admitted.
  • May only apply to ONE college ED.
  • The ONLY acceptable reason for not honoring an ED commitment is if the college does not meet your DEMONSTRATED financial need.
  • Sometimes/possibly a disincentive for the college to offer merit aid (check to see if they give merit aid at all before you get disappointed – see this post and webinar for more on this).
  • Generally seen as the strongest indication of demonstrating interest.
  • Many colleges that have ED fill a large percentage of their class this way (up to and sometimes even a little bit more than half).
  • Sometimes a higher acceptance rate.
  • Don’t believe colleges compare notes on this and won’t know if you back out?  They will.  And they retain the right to rescind an acceptance (even an ED acceptance) if they find out you didn’t withdraw other apps.
  • School counselor is not going to jeopardize future relationship with college because you changed your mind and want to back out.

Early Action

  • A favor the colleges do for you, if you’re able to get your application, test scores, teacher recommendations, etc. submitted early
  • Usually November 1 or November 15, but some colleges have December 1 or even later EA deadlines
  • Non-binding, so you’ll have a response sooner, often before Christmas, but you don’t have to make any commitments until May 1.
  • We call it the ‘back pocket acceptance;’ I’m just gonna carry this around with me until I have more info from my other colleges!
  • For unrestricted EA, you may apply to as many schools EA as you’d like, and you may also apply ED somewhere else.

Restricted Early Action

Different schools have different versions of REA.  Refer to each college’s website to ensure you follow their rules.  Here are a few examples of what REA might mean:

  • You may ONLY apply to that college’s EA program.
  • You may apply to that college’s EA program plus any PUBLIC university’s early program (Michigan, UNC, Texas (Austin), Wisconsin are a few examples of public universities with EA deadlines), but no other PRIVATE college’s EA program (Stanford, Yale, Princeton have this type of restricted EA)
  • You may not apply to any college’s ED program while applying for this college’s EA program but you may apply to any other college’s non-binding EA program (Georgetown is an example of this)

Rolling Admission
Some schools read applications as they are complete (ie all of the components are submitted – application, app fee, test scores, teacher recs, transcripts), and will give you a response within a short period of time.

Who Should NOT Apply Early Decision/Early Action?
If your GPA could use a little bump, and you anticipate that you’ll get strong grades the first semester of your senior year, you might be more competitive if you wait until those first semester grades are in the books.

What’s the downside of the EA/REA/rolling programs?  If your GPA stands strongly on its own, and you don’t need the first semester senior year to bump it up, and you are done testing, you should aim to submit early.  Why?  College admission offices are buried under applications from January through March.  Each overworked person in those offices is reading dozens of apps per day during that time frame.  If you do them a favor of getting your app to them early, they have more time and they are fresher.  You’ll get an answer earlier, and you’ll discover that your whole house will exhale when the first college acceptance arrives.  You didn’t even realize you were holding your breath.  Even if it’s not the dream school – take it.

When we work with our private clients, we aim to be done submitting before Thanksgiving, and we have them submit as many college apps early as possible.

Early is your friend in so many ways!  While Early Decision is a very specific commitment, Early Action is a great option for many students, ensuring that they’ll have at least a few college decisions before Christmas. Unless your student really, really needs that first semester, let’s get this done.  Don’t drag it out; don’t let your fall, your family Thanksgiving, your winter/Christmas holiday be consumed by looming college deadlines.  The deadline is the LAST day to submit an application, but it’s not necessarily the BEST day.

Here’s one final summary of possible college deadline plans:

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