Early Decision vs. Early Action

As an Orange County college admissions consultant I hear many students say that they have their heart set on one university. They know where they want to attend school and they have been working hard to get there for four years. If you are thinking of applying Early Decision, there are a few things you should know. First, you must be absolutely sure that you want to attend this particular college and this particular college only (READ:”5 Tips for Your College Entrance Essay“). Also, you must be sure that you can afford to attend this college (with or without financial aid).

irvine-college-consultantIf you apply Early Decision, you are bound to that university and cannot change your mind later. ED applicants should have visited the campus, picked out a major (or at least made sure that the university offers all of the majors they are considering), talked with their parents about the cost to attend, researched any and all financial aid packages available, and heavily reviewed their transcripts to ensure that they meet or exceed the admissions requirements.

The primary difference between Early Decision and Early Action is that ED is a binding contract and EA is not

EA applicants have the option of changing their mind if they are looking at a few schools. However, if you are applying EA, make sure that this particular university is on the top of your list because you can only apply EA to one university. If you are not accepted, you can still apply to other colleges under the regular admissions procedures (READ: “5 Things to do Before You Go Away to College“).

When considering ED or EA, it is important to know the pros and cons of the process.


-You will know earlier on if you have been accepted to your dream school; this avoids stress and anxiousness throughout senior year.

-You can save time and money perhaps better spent elsewhere by possibly only sending out one application.


-You cannot change your mind (for ED) and there are many students out there who have three or four schools that they would really like to attend. You must decide early.

-Students who need or want financial aid will have fewer options and time to compare potential financial aid offers. If money is an issue, ED or EA might not be right for you.

-If you are not accepted to your ED college, you will have very little time to prepare your other applications. As a result, you may want to prepare them early so that they can be quickly and efficiently completed and sent out prior to the deadline.

-If your senior year grades slip, your offer may be taken back. This could potentially put you in a very bad place so make sure that you keep up those diligent study habits.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions?

  1. Have you thoroughly researched multiple colleges in different parts of the country?
  2. Do you feel confident that you would enjoy the social climate of one specific university?
  3. Can your family afford to send you to the college of your dreams or have you heavily researched financial aid options from multiple universities and compared them?
  4. Have you visited the campus of your first choice college?
  5. Have you interviewed with someone at your dream school or have you talked to recent alumni or do you know several former high school classmates who have talked with you extensively about the college environment and educational programs?
  6. Has this been you dream school for a period longer than one year?
  7. Are your SAT and ACT scores higher than the average accepted student?
  8. Is your GPA higher than the average accepted student?

If you answered a definite ‘yes’ to all of these questions then ED or EA might be right for you. However, if you answered ‘no’ to even one of these questions think long and hard before deciding whether or not ED/EA is your best option. Either way, make sure that you talk with your college counselor to weigh the pros and cons.

Helpful resources: Early Application Guidance

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