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  • Writer's pictureYeon Education

Early Action vs Early Decision vs Regular Decision

College Applications are most of the time stressful for students and parents. With multiple different ways to apply to colleges, you must learn about the pros and cons of each of these different options and make sure to submit via the appropriate application for each corresponding school you wish to apply to. The different applications include Early Action, Early Decision, and Regular Decision. Not all of these options are going to be the perfect choice for you; thus, it is crucial for you to know the exact differences between each of these admission applications to make your college admission planning easier.

Early Action

As the name suggests, through Early Action, you will receive your admission decision from the school in the mail by mid-December. This allows you to finish up your college admission process in the first semester of your senior year and have time in your second semester to focus on other things such as scholarship applications, college tours, and AP exams. Early Action is “Non-Binding” which means that even if you are accepted, you are not binded or mandated to enroll in the school. This, as opposed to Early Decision, provides flexibility in making your choice, especially if you are not 100% confident you are going to enroll if accepted to the school. Overall, the main advantage of Early Action is that you get to find out your results quickly and also have the flexibility and time to make your decision of enrollment until May.

The downside of Early Action is obviously the faster deadline for submitting the application. Compared to regular decision, the Early Action deadline is usually a month or two sooner. This means you will have less time to polish up your college essays and gathering required documents such as recommendation letters, transcripts, etc. Also, the pool of Early Action applicants may have higher test scores and GPA’s on average than the applicants in the regular admission applicant pool meaning a more difficult competition for you.

Early Decision

Early Decision which is similar to Early Action also has faster deadlines and results coming in the mail, but the only difference is that the application is “binding.” This means, if you do get accepted, you must enroll in the school. Also, you can only apply to one school through Early Decision; thus, schools that offer early decision tend to be private and more prestigious. They will require signatures from you, your parents, and your counselor to confirm your willingness to apply in a binding agreement. If you do get accepted in December, you will have to withdraw any other college applications you may have submitted, and the only exception to the binding enrollment is if the university’s financial aid package fails to meet your needs.

Regular Decision

Regular Decision applications typically have a later submission deadline than Early Action or Early Decision applications. Some advantages of Regular Decision is that you will have more time to prepare your college application, discover what you want to truly study in college, and retake any possible standardized exams such as SAT or ACT. When you are not 100% sure which major you wish to study, it may be smarter in the long run to contemplate and research more on the majors and apply through regular decision rather than choose a major through one of the early admission choices and end up having to change majors while in college.

Some disadvantages of regular decision is that you may not hear back from the college about your results until Spring or sometimes the end of the year. This can be stressful as you will have no idea on your future for the entire second semester and make it more difficult to plan your future schedule when you will only have about three months after hearing your results. This stress may also lead to poorer results in AP exams and finals towards the end of the year.

What is the Best Application for Me?

All in all, each of these applications have their own pros and cons, and it is up to you and your family to decide on what strategy to use for a successful college admission process. On average, Early Decision applications tend to have a higher admission rate, but you must be 100% confident that this is truly the school that I wish to go to no matter what. Another key thing to note is that not all schools offer all three of these options; thus investigate thoroughly on each school on what they offer, and make a ranked list of schools and majors that you wish to apply to. This way, you will see much more clearly on which schools you should prepare for early and which schools you may have a little more time. As deadlines, requirements, and regulations differ among all schools, choose the appropriate application strategy carefully with your parents and counselors based on not only the school’s profile but also your own profile and competitiveness against the other applicant throughout the nation.


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