Early Action Vs. Early Decision: What’s The Difference

early action vs. early decision

A lot of students are interested in the subject of early action vs. early decision and how it impacts their admission.

Students who have thoroughly considered their college alternatives and have a strong preference for one institution may find that early decision (ED) and early action (EA) strategies are advantageous.

So if you’re curious about the difference between early action and early decision, then keep reading, this article has a lot to teach you.

Early Action Vs. Early Decision: What Do They Mean?

What Is Early Action?

The phrase “early action” refers to the fact that “students apply early and receive a decision well in advance of the institution’s customary response date.”

Students who apply for early decision can submit their applications to colleges earlier than other applicants and accepted applicants are required to enroll.

What Is Early Decision?

Early decision is a procedure in which students commit to a first-choice university where, if admitted, they definitely will enroll and withdraw all other applications.

In an early decision, it’s important to show commitment.

Students can apply early through early action, but they are not required to enroll if they are accepted. 

Early action options available to students are single-choice and multi-choice, the latter of which allows them to submit applications to several institutions through the same plan.

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early action vs. early decision

Early Action Vs. Early Decision: Their Differences

We will focus on four pointers to better understand the difference between early action and early decision.

1. Admission odds

Early action programs, especially at highly selective institutions, generally do not greatly boost your chance of enrolling in college. 

They merely make it possible for you to learn more quickly whether you have been admitted or not. 

Additionally, if your application is not selected for early action, it will probably be moved to the regular decision pool and reevaluated. 

In contrast, early decision programs have slightly higher admission rates than early action and normal decision programs. 

This is because the choice is final and the institution will be safeguarding its yield rate, affecting college rankings.

The fact that early decision applicants frequently, on average, have higher grades, standardized test scores, and overall applications relative to the normal selection pool is another explanation for higher early decision admission rates. 

2. Financial aid

If you receive early action acceptances from several schools, your family will have the chance to examine financial assistance packages and choose the choice that best suits your needs and financial situation.

On the other hand, because early decision programs are mandatory, you won’t be allowed to select among other institutions that would have provided greater financial help and and lower net cost.

But there’s a way to avoid the trap.

One way is to specifically ask the admissions committee to release you from the commitment to attend their school if the net cost of the college is entirely out of your family’s price range. 

Most colleges would honor this request.

But always make sure you think about financial aid while making your college list. 

Your family can also compute Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and use Net Price Calculators to obtain an estimate of how much it will cost them to send you to attend a specific college (NPC).

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3. Obligation to attend

Early action choices are not legally binding, so you’re not required to attend the school or schools when you are admitted. 

You’re also free to submit as many early action applications as you wish to schools.

However, early decision programs are legally enforceable, so if your family decides the financial aid package is enough, you will be obligated to attend college.

Also, you are only permitted to apply to one school’s early decision due to the binding nature of the decision.

You’re also eligible to apply to both early decision and early action programs at the same time. 

But you will have to withdraw all of your other applications, though, if you’re accepted into the early decision program.

Note that some institutions have single-choice early action programs, sometimes known as “restrictive early action,” which function similarly to regular early action programs. The only exception is that you’re permitted to apply to any other early action or early decision programs.

4. Deadlines and decision making

Early decision allows you to receive admission decisions far ahead of standard decision applicants in December or January.

They also let you submit an early college application typically in November and receive an admission decision ahead of normal decision applicants.

Early action and early decision both give you the chance to finish the college application process ahead of time, even before the holidays, and alleviate the stress that comes with it.

It would make sense for you not to apply early if your ACT/SAT scores or GPA do not meet or surpass the admissions profile for universities on their early action and early decision lists. 

Instead, you should focus more on raising your grades and test scores. 

Is Early Decision Better Than Early Action?

No, none of them is better than the other. It only depends on whether you can cope with the conditions they entail.

Although colleges choose early decision over early action because it allows them to estimate the proportion of accepted students who actually enroll in classes. 

This is because yield is significant to schools since it affects their standing and appeal to potential students.

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Is There Any Downside To Early Action?

Yes, there are possible drawbacks to applying early, such as fewer financial aid options, more pressure to choose a school, and a deadline crunch for regular decision applications.

Is Early Action Harder Than Regular Decision?

Yes, early action seems harder than an early decision.

There is a minor advantage for early decision candidates, but you must remember that the early application pool is also far stronger than the normal decision pool.

This is because you will be considered with all the other ambitious people and it can be very competitive.

Can I Apply for ED And EA At The Same Time?

Only one school will accept your ED application but you’re free to apply to more schools as EA.

Note that if you’re admitted to your ED school, you would need to withdraw all other applications and enroll there instead.

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Early Action Vs. Early Decision: Pros And Cons

Let’s explore the pros and cons of both early action and early decision

Pros Of Early Action

  • It is non-binding (i.e you’re not obligated to enroll)
  • You will get updates on your admission status so you finish the college application process earlier and avoid having to submit any extra applications after the deadline.
  • It encourages you to finish part of your work in advance to avoid being overworked later, especially around the holidays.
  • You’re free to submit applications to a number of institutions before deciding which one to attend.
  • You can compare and negotiate the financial aid packages.
  • You will know right away if your application is postponed until the next round of consideration.

Cons Of Early Action 

  • It doesn’t provide the same increased chances of admission as an early decision.
  • It does not give you the chance to improve your GPA and ACT/SAT scores during the fall semester of your senior year.

Pros Of Early Decision

  • You have better chances of being accepted because accepting early decision applicants improve a university’s rankings.
  • You will know in advance where you will be attending if you’re accepted.
  • It will encourage you to start working on your college applications earlier because you will need to put in your best effort to get into your top-choice institution.
  • If your application is not granted early acceptance, it may be deferred to the regular decision pool.

Cons Of Early Decision

  • It is binding (i.e you’re obligated to enroll)
  • It denies you the option to attend another school that would have provided more financial aid and, as a result, a lower net cost.
  • You will need to submit an application with your ACT/SAT results and current GPA.

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Early Action Vs. Early Decision: Final Words

Instead of applying only through normal decisions, you can benefit from applying both early action and early decision. 

These benefits include less stress and time spent working on college applications, knowing where you will be attending in advance, and better preparation for college (e.g, finding accommodation).

On the other side, applying early may have some drawbacks, such as fewer options for financial aid, pressure to choose a school, and a deadline-driven situation for regular decision applications, which are often due soon after early admission decisions are made public.

But applying early or not depends on your unique history, ambitions, and what your target schools have to offer, just like every other part of the college admissions process. 

To avoid regrets later, I advise you to extensively investigate each college on your list before applying.

Early Action Vs. Early Decision: Frequently Asked Questions

How many schools can you EA to?

Only one early decision college will accept your application. 

Note that you’re obligated to attend the college if it admits you and provides you with appropriate financial help. This is why it is considered “binding”. 

Some universities offer two early deadlines, known as the early decision deadline I and early decision deadline II.

Do you get less financial aid if you apply early decision?

Yes, early decision applicants may have better chances of getting into their dream school, but it could mean getting less financial help.

What happens if you get rejected early decision?

You will have to wait until the following year to reapply if your application is denied. 

Although hearing this may be painful, you still have options, including reapplying to your top preference school during the following admissions period or applying to other schools.

How much does early action increase chances?

It’s understandable why colleges are likely to favor early decision applicants given the large number of quality applicants doing so currently. 

In reality, at many schools, acceptance rates for early decision applicants are 10-12% greater than those for regular selection applicants.

Who benefits from an early decision?

The universities benefit from an early decision because it assists them in managing the amount of non-need-based aid they give to students, allowing them to charge students from wealthy households more in net tuition.

Does early action increase scholarships?

Although early decision increases the likelihood of acceptance, it doesn’t increase the likelihood of scholarships. 

What happens if you apply early decision to two colleges?

You cannot apply for an early decision to more than one institution because it is binding. 
If you do, both institutions may decide to revoke their acceptances.

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