What are Early Decision I and Early Decision II?

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Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

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The increasing complexity of the college admissions process is clear in the number of application options. Now, we face Early Action, Early Decision I, Early Decision II, Regular Decision, Restrictive Early Action, and even Single-Choice Early Action! Not to mention the possible outcomes: accepted, denied, deferred, waitlisted. One of the more interesting trends to have emerged in the last decade or so is the Early Decision I and Early Decision II system.

Previously, you had one shot at an early decision acceptance. If you were deferred or denied, it was back to the drawing board (and to the regular applications). 

ED II changes all that.

ED I Versus ED II 

The two early decision rounds have some similarities:

  • They’re both binding. If you get in, you must withdraw your applications elsewhere and attend that school.
  • They both help demonstrate the depth of your interest in that particular school.
  • They both get you an answer well before a regular decision would.

However, it’s their differences that really make the situation interesting:

  • Due date: usually in November for ED I, and usually in early January for ED II.
  • Decision date: usually mid-December for ED I, and usually early February for ED II.

Notice that the due date for ED II is a couple weeks after the decision date for ED I. This means that you have more options. If you receive anything other than an acceptance from the school where you applied for ED I? You can apply to a different school for ED II.

Factors to Consider in Applying ED II

  • Preparing Your ED II Application. Applications for ED II are generally due just a couple weeks after ED I decisions come out. Typically, right around the time all your regular decision applications are due, too.  For many students, these late December weeks are full of holidays and family obligations. If you’re interested in applying ED II if your application is deferred or denied from your ED I round? You’ll need to get started thinking about it sooner rather than later. 
  • Early Senior Year Grades. Because the ED II deadline is later, you’ll need to submit grades from the beginning of your senior year. This may be a blessing or a curse. If you struggled in junior year, this is a chance to show that you’re redeeming yourself. In fact, it may be a compelling reason to skip ED I entirely and apply to your dream school as ED II, so that you’ve had a chance to raise your grades first. On the other hand, if you’ve begun struggling in senior year, your ED II college will see that and it may not reflect favorably on you. 
  • ED I Deferral and ED II. Imagine this scenario: you apply ED I to your dream school, and receive a deferral (meaning you’ll be considered along with the RD applicants). You then apply ED II to your second-favorite college. If you’re accepted, you lose out on the opportunity to go to your dream school, because ED II decisions are binding.

There are pros and cons on either side, but think carefully — and consult with your college counselor — before applying ED II if you still have a chance to get into your dream school.

Questions? Let us know!