I have often been asked whether what the difference is between Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA). Students also want to know what the benefits are to applying early.
Early Decision is a binding agreement. You may only apply to one ED school and if you are accepted you must attend. The only reason students should apply ED is if they are 100% sure they want to attend that institution. I cannot stress this enough, if a student is not sure which school they want to attend they should not apply ED because if they are accepted they need to attend that school. The only exception would be if the financial aid package that was offered was not enough to cover the student’s financial needs.
If a student applies ED they may have an increased chance of being accepted. When a student applies ED they are telling a school that they are their first and only choice. If you are a top candidate they will want to accept you to prevent you from attending another school. The percentage of students accepted ED is usually higher and sometimes much higher than the percentage accepted from the regular pool of students. It is also advantageous to the student because they will know what college they are attending early and alleviating some stress. The only downsides to applying ED are that you will not be able to compare financial aid packages and you will have to complete all of your testing by October.
It is important to note that there are schools that have ED 1 and the applications are due sometime in November or they have ED2 whose applications are due the same time as the regular pool. There is still a slight advantage to applying ED2 because it will let the colleges know that you will go to that institution if you are accepted.
Early Action is not a binding agreement and you can apply to as many EA schools as you would like. The benefit is that the students may still have a slight advantage and the student will know if they are accepted to schools at the end of December. That takes some stress off the student. With EA the student does not need to let the college know if they are attending until May 1st. There will be plenty of time to evaluate which college and financial aid is best for the student.