The 2018-2019 college application season is coming, and high school students rush to partake in it. The competition is ruthless. Both those who have selected a prestigious college and those who are unsure which university to choose want to know as early as possible whether they are admitted. For this reason, many students submit their application documents before the regular deadline. The article has been written to help you understand the two modes of early submission: early action and early decision. Read it to find out which method to employ when applying to your school of choice.

What is Early Action

The early action plan is offered by many American schools. As the name implies, the plan can be used to apply earlier to a coveted institution of higher learning. In addition to applying earlier than usual, an applicant can find out earlier whether they have been admitted or not. Those who opt for early action are notified in mid-December about the decision of the admissions committee. The decisions fall into three categories: acceptance, denial, and deferral. While the first two categories are pretty straightforward, the latter one is a bit complicated. A deferral means that the committee is not ready to accept the applicant after the early decision cycle; however, it recognizes enough potential in the prospective student to allow them to compete for the application later.

What this means for you:

  • Under the early action, you can submit your documents to several schools.
  • Early action application is not binding. It means that the accepted individual is not obligated to attend the college.
  • The non-binding nature of the application mode confers more freedom to the prospective student. By applying through an early action plan to several schools, you can later choose between them. The mode provides you with additional time to make your decision based on several factors not the least of which is the cost of college.
  • Even if you are deferred during the early decision cycle, you can increase your chances of being admitted by prettying up your application essay and working on your communication skills.

What is Early Decision

Early decision plan is an optimal choice for prospective students who know for certain which school they want to attend. Unlike early action, this plan is all about the decision. And it is binding. Thus, by applying through early decision, you indicate your commitment to a particular school and agree to abstain from withdrawing your application later. Under the early decision, you are prohibited from submitting your documents to more than one college. An early decision applicant is facing one of the three types of admission committee responses: acceptance, denial, and deferral. They can apply to other institutions only if their submission is rejected.

What this means for you:

  • You must be sure of your choice of college because once accepted, you are obliged to attend it.
  • Your chances of being accepted to a school of your choice are much higher under early decision. In some schools, the admission rates for early decision applicants approach 50%.
  • By applying under this program, you agree to place a non-refundable deposit.
  • You can focus on a single college, thereby reducing the amount of admission stress and related expenses.
  • You won’t be able to compare financial aid packages of different colleges.

Difference Between Early Decision and Early Action

Most American schools offer both application options to prospective students. The two programs vary widely. Whereas some colleges don’t prohibit applicants from submitting their documents to rival institutions through early action, others do. For example, under a single-choice early action program of Princeton University, prospective students are banned from signing up for other private programs. However, programs offered by public or international institutions are up for grabs.

The early action plan offered by Princeton University falls under the broad category of restrictive early action programs. As such, this category is not different from early decision programs. The policies governing restrictive application are often so convoluted that students are advised to seek clarifications by reaching college guidance counselors.

The main difference between early decision and early action plans is that the latter is nonbinding, which means that students don’t have to commit to one school only. Recently, early decision plans have been criticized by the public due to unfair advantage they confer on high-income families. It has to do with the fact that only well-off individuals can select a school without comparing financial aid offers of different higher education institutions. Their economically disadvantaged counterparts cannot spare enough financial resources, which is why they have to settle for early action.

Early action and early decision schools also differ in that the latter plan places students under obligation to send a deposit within a month of being submitted to an institution.

Early Action Schools

There are approximately 450 colleges that offer early action or early decision plans. The most popular institutions with early action are:

  • Boston College
  • CalTech
  • Georgetown
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • Princeton
  • Stanford
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Virginia
  • Villanova
  • Yale

Please note that Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale impose considerable restrictions on their early action programs. Put simply, you won’t be able to apply to other institutions if you choose one of these schools. Please contact college guidance counselors for additional information on the matter.

Early Decision Schools

Early decision schools are among the most competitive higher education institutions in the country. The most popular schools offering this restrictive plan are:

  • American University
  • Boston University
  • Brown
  • Colby
  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • John Hopkins
  • Northwestern University
  • NYU
  • Smith
  • University of Pennsylvania

Make sure that your choice of an early action school is well-informed because you won’t have a chance to apply to another college before the admission deadline in November.

Early Action Deadline

Early action deadlines are not flexible. It means that an applicant is expected to submit all necessary documents before the target date. Usually, these deadlines are November 1 and November 15. However, they might vary based on a school.

Early Decision Deadline

Early decision deadlines are in November and January. If you are accepted to a college with an early decision deadline, you are obligated to place a deposit within a month.