What is Early Decision / Early Action for College?

While planning out high school schedules or searching for colleges, you might have come across the terms “early decision” / “early action” (often abbreviated ED and EA). But what exactly are they? What’s the difference between the two?

Let’s start with the overarching theme here, “early”. Both ED and EA allow high school students to submit a college application before the typical due date. In addition to that, both ED and EA programs notify the student of their acceptance (or rejection) earlier than other students who applied at normal times. The sooner the better, right?

Applying early means a smaller pool of potential students, which boosts your acceptance odds. We delve more into how ED/EA affects your admission chances and whether or not it improves your odds in this post!

A bird with a worm in its mouth.

Early Decision

The biggest difference between ED and EA programs are the conditions that go with them. ED applicants make a binding promise, that should the school accept them, they¬†must attend. While there are ways out of ED obligations if a student is for whatever reason unable to attend, other schools will respect the original promise made and may not accept you. As such, it’s expected that a student only applies ED to one school, not every single one on their college list.

Early Action

Unlike ED, EA programs are not binding. These programs are ideal for students who are interested in an early notification. They are not locked into a sort of contract and may apply to as many schools as they choose. However, they still get the benefit of an early application.

Why Apply Early Decision / Early Action?

As noted earlier, the main benefit of applying early is the early notification and the potential acceptance odds boost. Some students like to get their work done as soon as possible so they can relax, right? The same principle applies to students who apply early. They don’t have to scramble at the last minute to ensure all their applications are in before the deadlines. And the sooner they learn of their acceptance (or rejection) the sooner they can get to work on other forms of college prep, like getting dorm supplies and making travel arrangements.

If you are 100% certain of the college you want to go to, applying ED could be beneficial. But if there’s even a smidgen of doubt between two schools, applying EA might be a better decision, so you don’t get locked into a binding choice.

Ultimately, it depends on the student themselves. Applying earlier means applying with what grades and extracurriculars you’ve already done. In other words, potentially not including any future achievements or activities you might undertake before graduation.

Both EA and ED are becoming increasingly popular as the years go by. College can be competitive, and many prefer to get a head start for a multitude of reasons.

Another tool that can give you an edge on the college search process? College Raptor! With our free match tool, you can discover individualized college matches, personalized net price estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools across the country!