• Kristen Moon

Should I Apply to College Early Decision?


Autumn is here with its characteristic signs, such as changing foliage, cooler temperatures, and pumpkin spice lattes. Another anticipated event that comes with the arrival of fall is college application deadlines. Seniors are created their college lists and determining which colleges they will apply early vs. regular decision. There are definite advantages with Early Admission, particularly with Early Decision. However, there are rules that you need to know about before you can determine if this decision right for you.

There are several options regarding admission plans, the majority of which are “non-restrictive” or non-binding, meaning that upon acceptance you are not required to attend that particular institution. These non-restrictive options are Regular Admission, Rolling Admission, and Early Action (EA).

Regular admission has deadlines for student applications and involves a specified amount of time in which to receive a decision. Rolling Admission involves admission cycles, during which applications are submitted and decisions rendered at any time within the cycle. The third non-restrictive option is Early Action, where a student can apply early and receive a decision in advance of the institution’s regular response date.

There are also other application plans that have advantages for the student as well as the institution but carry restrictions. The first and more simple of the two is Early Decision (ED), where the student commits to a particular institution (their first choice) and, should they be admitted, they will definitely enroll. This plan involves an early application deadline and an early decision deadline.

These Early Decision applications also benefit the college in that the student’s enrollment is guaranteed if acceptance is offered. This increases the college’s “yield”: the percentage of students who actually enroll to the school once offered admission. Yield is an important factor in a college’s annual ranking and colleges know that families of prospective students usually consider an institution’s ranking when deciding where to apply. Admission rates for students who apply through ED are significantly higher than regular admission rates. One other possible college entry route is Restrictive Early Action (REA), which means students are not permitted to apply via the ED, EA or REA routes to any other institutions. However, the REA approach allows the student until May 1 to enroll if they are accepted.

In summary, although these early options certainly remove the waiting game and a fair amount of anxiety from the college application process, they do limit your options. If you decide to apply for Early Decision, be sure you want to attend that college. Be aware that if you are accepted, you are required to enroll. Finally, also be aware that if you apply using the ED or REA approaches, you may not be permitted to apply to any other colleges using these routes.


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