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  • The Ins and Outs of Applying Early

Should You Apply Early Admission?

Girl standing next to brick wall

Deciding whether to apply early under an early decision or early action program is a big decision. Each program has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to consider.

The Three Types of Early Admission

Early Decision (ED) is binding. If you are accepted—and you get enough aid—you must attend and withdraw all other applications. You may apply early decision to only one college.

Early Action (EA) is not binding. You are usually free to apply to other colleges and you are not obligated to attend if accepted, 

Restrictive Early Action (REA) is also not binding. You will usually have until May 1 to make a decision. However, you will not be able to apply early (ED, EA or REA) to any other college.

Applying Early Is a Good Decision for Some and May Not Be So Good for Others

If you are thinking of applying early—either early decision, early action, or restrictive early action—ask yourself these three questions and discuss them with your parents, high school guidance counselors, or college prep counsels:

  1. Am I happy with my grades and test scores? If not, you may be better off using the fall semester to improve them and applying during the regular admissions cycle.
  2. Do I know what I want in a college based on extensive campus visits and research? If not, you may end up at a college you won't like. Consider not applying early and dedicate time to finding out what you really want in a college.
  3. Do I need substantial financial aid? If so, you may be better off skipping an early decision application so you can compare and negotiate aid offers from multiple colleges.

More Food for Thought

Does applying early boost your chances? Applying early, especially for an early decision, shows the college you are interested. It may also increase your odds of getting accepted as recent studies recently show that early admit rates are significantly higher than regular decision admit rates. Before you decide to apply early, however, remember that many highly qualified and recruited students will be in your application pool, and how competitive the pool is will vary by school.

Early rejections can lead to hastily completed regular applications. You might be tempted to delay work on regular admission applications until you've heard from your "early" colleges. But if you do, you'll scramble to meet admission deadlines, and risk submitting less-than-stellar applications.

An early application might lead to a deferral. One outcome of applying early is being "deferred" to the regular application pool. The college is not saying "no," but it is looking for more reasons to say "yes." If this happens, your best strategy is to work hard to earn top grades throughout your senior year and show your interest to the admissions office.

Resist the urge to "just get it over with." No doubt about it, an early acceptance can relieve some of your application stress. But there's a big payoff to taking the time to put together a well-researched list of colleges and weathering the stress of applying to each one. Your reward is ending up at a college where you know you will thrive.

The information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.