You may have heard terms like “Early Decision” and “Early Action” during your college application process. What do these application options means and how do they impact admissions outcomes? Read on to learn more early admissions and how things have changed in the past five years.
What is Early Decision versus Early Action?
Early Decision is a binding agreement between the student and the university. By applying Early Decision, you are communicating that you will definitely attend if you are admitted. This differs, however, from Early Action. Early Action is a way to get your application in early, but there is no obligation to attend.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Early Decision and Early Action
For many schools (but not all), applying Early Decision can increase your chances of being admitted. College admissions has seen over the years that institutions are filling a significant percentage of their incoming freshman class with students who applied as Early Decision candidates. For schools not offering an Early Decision option, the same trend exists with Early Action applicants.
In addition to increasing your chances of being admitted, applying Early Decision means you get your decision back much sooner than you would applying by the regular decision deadline. Many schools notify early applicants by late December or early January. Even if you don’t choose a school to apply to for early decision, you could get a number of your application decisions earlier in the school year, decreasing the stress of juggling applications and a busy senior year.
While there are advantages to applying early decision or early actions, there may be some drawbacks. If you apply early decision to a university and are admitted, you immediately have to withdraw all other applications. That means that you won’t be able to see where else you were admitted or compare financial aid packages. If you are not sure that a school will be financially feasible for you and your family, it is often not recommended to apply Early Decision.
Trends in Early Admission
In the last few years, Early Decision and Early Action applications have gone up by 38% since 2019 (Inside Higher Ed). This is likely due to the factors mentioned above – university admissions has become more competitive over the years and prospective students are eager to improve their chances of admission to their dream school. Because of this, many universities are filling at least half of their incoming class (sometimes more) with students who have applied Early Decision or Early Action.
As a college counselor based on the east coast in Washington, DC, I have seen a large increase in Early Decision applications to Ivy League colleges in particular. This is unsurprising given the significant increase in acceptance rates. For example, in 2021 Cornell admitted approximately 7% of their regular decision applicants, but around 20% of their early decision applicants. This makes a huge difference for applicants who call Cornell their dream school.
Even if you decide to not apply Early Decision, consider applying Early Action to any of your schools that offer it. Not only will this increase your chances of admission, but senior year will get busy before you know it and it’s one less thing to worry about!
Overall, whichever path you choose to take, it is a personal decision. Early Decision is not for everyone and that is okay! Make sure to discuss with your college counselor and family to ultimately decide what is best for you.
Schedule a consultation with one of Galin’s College Counselors by calling 608.841.1053 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.