What's Up With Early Action & Early Decision?


About Early Admission Programs

Many colleges offer early admission programs that let students apply earlier in the year than usual (usually in November or December) and get a decision from the college earlier as well (usually sometime in late December).

Early admission is beneficial for colleges because it gives them an earlier idea of what kind of students are applying. With that information, the colleges can admit and actively recruit the students they really want.

Early admission can be good for students because it allows them to express their sincere interest in a school. Colleges like it when they’re your first choice because then they don’t have to worry about you choosing another school later in the year and leaving them with an empty dorm room.

There are two types of Early Admission programs:

Early Action and Early Decision.


  • Early Action is nonbinding. This means that you can (in most cases) apply Early Action to more than one college and receive an early admission decision, but you do not have to accept an offer of admission any earlier than usual (May 1, in most cases).
  • Here’s why Early Action is helpful for students: If you don’t get into your Early Action schools, you can broaden your list of colleges to apply to via Regular Decision; if you do get in to your Early Action schools, you can narrow your choices down.
  • Really, the only potential negative aspect of applying Early Action is that the schools will have to judge you based on your grades and activities to date. If you’re working to improve your grades or beef up your list of extracurricular activities, you may want to give yourself the extra few weeks and apply Regular Decision.


  • Early Decision is binding, which means that you’re making a commitment to enroll at the college if you’re admitted. Once you are admitted after applying Early Decision, you must withdraw your other college applications or stop applying anywhere else.
  • So what happens if you decide not to go to a school you were accepted to via Early Decision? Well, you probably won’t be sued by the college or hauled there by the authorities against your will. However, the other schools you applied to may be contacted by the Early Decision school, and it’s possible that those schools will rescind their offers of admission. In short, it's a serious matter and you should not apply Early Decision unless you're very serious about attending a particular school.
  • Generally speaking, applying Early Decision is a good idea for the students who have researched colleges very thoroughly and have found the perfect school for them.

Will applying early help my chances for admission?

  • Applying early (especially Early Decision) can improve your chances of being accepted into a particular school since the college will know you’re a “sure thing.”
  • Don’t apply Early Decision unless you’re totally sure about making a commitment to that school. If you’re accepted Early Decision, you must enroll.
  • Each school has different policies regarding Early Action and Early Admission. Be sure to read them very carefully before submitting your application.