We get it, there is a lot of confusion surrounding college “early decision” versus “early action” applications. That’s why we’re here to offer answers to 5 of the biggest questions asked about them: Who applies early with these applications; what do these two terms mean; where are the colleges that offer these options; when are the deadlines for these early applications; and why you should be considering applying early in the first place.
High school students: if you are applying to colleges, you should consider improving your admission odds by applying to early action and early decision. While applying early does place you within a pool of students that is significantly smaller, this pool is more competitive. Students who apply early generally have a strong, targeted drive to get into this particular school, and thus were highly motivated throughout high school to earn impressive scores. Higher GPA and standardized test score averages are common within this small pool of students, so bear in mind that, while the application rate is higher when you apply early, doing so isn’t a guarantee you’ll get in!
These early deadlines have two main categories, as we’ve mentioned: they are divided into early “action” and “decision.” Both of these categories allow you to apply early to a college with a group of students prior to the regular pool. But, in short, the difference between them is your level of commitment.
Early action, sometimes called EA, requires no commitment from you. You simply apply early, and if you get in, congrats! You may still consider your other offers before announcing your final decision.
But it is the early decision applications, aka ED applications, that will bind you to a school. Applying to this deadline means that you are committing to enrolling if you get in. There are exceptions—as with everything—but in general, the main reason why the acceptance rate is higher within the early decision pool is that most students just don’t want to rule out possibilities before their senior year. But, since university administrators like to know their incoming class as far in advance as possible, admission tips in favor of students who are willing to demonstrate commitment early.
When and Where
To give you a sense of the colleges available to you with this application timeline, below you’ll find 40 of the most popular EA/ED colleges. For the purposes of this chart, “popular” translates to “colleges that draw a lot of students because of their great programs and their high admission rate for early applicants.” This list also contains the deadlines for submitting said early applications if you wish to be considered within this pool.
This is all great, but…why bother? Why go through the trouble of applying early?
Students who send their applications early have a higher chance of being accepted. Given today’s incredibly competitive admission landscape, every advantage helps. If you’re ready, applying early can give you an edge: not only because you’re competing against fewer students, but because there are more freshmen slots available if you apply before everyone else. However, if you wait to apply, you will have a couple advantages: extra time to bring up your GPA, a chance to retake a standardized test for a better score, and even a chance to complete a significant passion project for your resume.
Applying early isn’t for everyone, so you have to weigh the advantages of waiting versus applying for your situation. But, if you have a top school in mind, and it offers ED or EA, you might just decide that it’s worth it to apply early (and maybe commit early) for a boost in your odds!
If you’re still unsure whether applying early is for you, let Empowerly help! Reach out to one of our counselors—many of whom are former admissions officers—to set up a meeting to discuss if this is for you. Don’t know where to start? Submit a request to our research team, and we can take a look at your interests and create a list of early application schools that might suit you.
College applications can be confusing enough without the added variable of early admission, so don’t struggle alone. Let Empowerly, your parents, or even your friends help you out– and you’ll find the right school for you. And, once you do, consider applying as early as you can!