Early Action vs. Early Decision
Many colleges offer early admission programs that let students apply earlier in the year (usually in November) and get a decision from the college earlier as well (by the middle of January).
Here’s a useful, albeit simple chart from the College Board:
As you can see, early decision is binding, which means that you’re making a commitment to enroll at the school if you’re accepted. It’s like signing a contract. If you get in, you’re going there. Therefore, you should apply early decision only for your #1 choice.
On the other hand, early action is non-binding, which means that you can (in most cases) apply early action to more than one college, but you don’t have to accept an offer of admission any earlier than usual.
WHY DO COLLEGES LIKE EARLY ACTION AND EARLY DECISION?
It gives them an idea of what kind of students will be applying. They also like feeling loved (as the applicant’s #1 choice).
WHY DO STUDENTS LIKE EARLY ACTION AND EARLY DECISION?
- Higher Acceptance Rates: At Yale, for example, the regular acceptance rate for the class of 2018 was 6.26%, but the acceptance rate for early action was 15.47%. This is true at many schools.
- A Second Chance*: Students who are not accepted via early action or early decision are considered again during the regular admissions period. Essentially, they have a second chance to get in.
- Reward for Diligence: Students who get their applications and essays finished early (instead of waiting until the last minute) get rewarded with benefits 1 and 2. Moreover, they have less stress to deal with during the holiday season, when most students are frantically writing essays and filling in their applications.
NOTE: If you are flatly rejected by a school during the early action or early decision phase (because you are vastly under-qualified), your application will NOT be considered again. If you plan to apply early, do so only if you have a decent chance of getting in, i.e., you meet most, if not all, requirements.