Early Action… Early Decision… Regular Decision… What The?

A smart application strategy can make the difference in acceptances and scholarship money.

Will applying early improve my chances? What’s the difference between ED and EA? What about financial aid?

These are the questions I hear every day from our client families. I get it! This stuff is confusing. How you apply to colleges can dramatically impact both your acceptances and your financial packages. Your application strategy needs to be tailored to your family’s academic goals and financial considerations. We work with thousands of families to strategically build college lists designed to maximize acceptances and scholarship dollars.

While every university has its own admissions policies and historical data, I hope that this simple table will give you a little information to get started. From here, work with a professional education consultant or your school guidance counselor to craft your own application strategy.

Early ActionEarly Decision 1Early Decision 2Regular Decision
DeadlineNov 1-15Nov 1-15Jan 1-15Jan 1-15
Will it improve my chances?Not usuallyUsuallyUsuallyNot usually
Will I be able to compare financial packages?YesNoNoYes
When will I learn my admissions decision?Mid-Dec-JanuaryMid-Dec-JanuaryFebruaryMarch-April
Which sounds like me?I’m ready to submit in November.I want to hear back earlier.I don’t have one dream school.I need to compare financial packages.I have a dream school and need to give it my best shot.Financial packages are not a major factor.I have a dream school and need to give it my best shot.Financial packages are not a major factor.I may have been rejected from my EA or ED schools.I wasn’t ready to submit in November.I needed to improve my grades.I wanted to take SAT/ACT one last timeI added a few schools to my list.

Here are a few tips you need to know:

  1. Early Decision is binding. When you apply Early Decision, you promise to enroll if offered admission. This has both benefits and drawbacks, as ED acceptance rates tend to be higher, but the binding status makes comparing financial packages impossible.
  2. Early Action is non-binding. You may apply to as many schools as you’d like under the EA plan, and you will be able to decide where you would like to enroll once you’ve received all of your acceptances. While a few schools show higher EA acceptance rates, in general applying EA will not dramatically improve your chances. But, you will be able to compare financial packages and give some more time to your college selection.
  3. Early Decision 2 is binding. ED2 is simply another chance to apply Early Decision during the January time frame. You will improve your chances, but you will be bound to enroll if accepted.

We’ve helped thousands of families make strategic application plans based on their financial and academic goals. Feel free to reach out to me if you need help maximizing scholarship dollars or gaining entrance to your dream school!

Jennifer Rosier

Owner/Education Consultant

College Prep Solutions