Early Decision vs. Early Action

Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

Applying to college isn’t just a matter of figuring out how or where or why. There’s also when. Colleges offer a variety of application deadlines. It is important to be intentional in your choices because some styles are binding. From regular decision to early decision vs. early action, there is a lot to learn. Below are the most common types of decisions and what they mean.

1. Early Decision

Early Decision is the strictest. It is a binding decision. That means if you apply early decision to a school and are accepted, you must go to that school. The only exception is if the financial aid package is not enough to make attendance viable. Early Decision is an excellent choice only for your top school, so that if you get in you’re excited to attend!

2. Early Action

Early Action is non-binding. If you get into a school via early action and are accepted, you can still wait. You can hold off until the traditional May 1 decision deadline. It is a good way to show a school your interest without the strict commitment of early decision.

3. Restricted Early Action

Restricted Early Action is a mix of the two. It is non-binding but you may only apply to this one school early. This shows a higher level of commitment than normal early action. Again, this should be reserved only for your top choice school.

4. Rolling Admissions

Rolling admissions allow you to get your admissions decision proportionate to when you submitted your application. That means, the sooner you submit, the sooner you hear back! This is helpful for easing the stress of waiting until March without the tough commitment decisions of the styles above.


If you apply to a school early and are deferred, this means your application has been put into the regular decision pool and you will hear a final decision in (usually) March when the rest of the decisions come out.

What now?

The deadlines for many Early Decision and Early Action programs are approaching so hopefully your applications are well on their way!

The application process is certainly tiring, but don’t forget to keep working on your regular decision applications while waiting to hear early offers. (The UC’s are due on Nov. 30 for example.) With all of these options, even comparing early decision vs. early action, you can see there are multiple factors to consider. Choose wisely!

If you need a sounding board for this decision-making process, book a consult to talk to one of our experts today.

Questions? Let us know!