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What are early decisions for college admissions?


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John’s Answer

Zemira early action and early decision allow students to apply to their first-choice schools earlier than regular applicants and to receive admissions decisions before regularly admitted students. While the timeline varies, most colleges and universities set November deadlines and send out results as early as mid-December. This guide provides details about the differences between early action and early decision so that you can pick the option that best suits your needs.

EARLY ACTION VS. EARLY DECISION

WHAT IS EARLY ACTION
Early action is a non-binding process that allows you to apply, and potentially gain admission, to one or more schools earlier than regular applicants. As an early action applicant, you usually have until November 1 or 15 to submit admissions materials. Early action schools send out decisions in January or February and allow prospective students until May 1 (the national response date) to formally reply to their offers. Non-binding early action represents the norm, enabling you to apply to multiple colleges and universities through this process. However, competitive higher education institutions (including Ivy League schools like Harvard and Princeton) increasingly operate restrictive/single-choice early action. Under this model, you may pursue early action with only one school, but can seek regular admission at other universities.

WHAT IS EARLY DECISION
Unlike early action, early decision is a binding agreement, and you can apply to only one school using this process. Early decision normally benefits top-performing students who know their first-choice college, and since it's a binding agreement, the institution requires signatures from you, your family, and a school counselor. Through this accelerated admissions process, you receive notice in December and must enroll if you get accepted. Once accepted, the school offers a financial aid package tailored to your family's financial situation. Admitted students send in a nonrefundable deposit well before May 1. The early decision process may also result in denial, which usually means that students do not qualify for regular admission at the school. However, you may receive a deferment notice, allowing you to pursue regular admission with that school.

SHOULD YOU APLY EARLY
Early admission processes, particularly the restrictive early decision, work best for students who have reached definitive conclusions about their top school(s) and who feel they are competitive applicants. To determine if you are a competitive applicant, check the school website; most schools give you an idea of what a competitive applicant profile is. For example, if you have a low GPA, average test scores, and no extracurriculars, it may not be wise to apply for early decision to a competitive school. However, if you discover that you exceed the college's admission profile for GPA, class rank, and standardized test performance, then early admission is a good way forward. Early action and decision are generally not good options if you are a senior in high school who needs to strengthen your academic record. Once accepted under early decision, you may back out for a good reason, like inadequate funding or a family emergency. However, colleges do share admission information with one another, so students who do not take early action/decision seriously can hurt their chances with multiple institutions.

John recommends the following next steps:

Early action does not require you to commit to the college. You may apply early or pursue regular admissions with other schools.
Early decision binds you to one institution, but sends the strongest message to the admission committee that the school is your top choice.
Early action enables you to compare financial aid packages among several colleges and universities before accepting or declining the offer by May 1.
Early decision applicants receive answers as early as December and must attend the school if accepted with enough financial support.
Most higher education institutions offer either early action or early decision, effectively making the choice of accelerated admission for you.

This is an excellent breakdown of how Early Decision application compares with Early Action. Tonia Pullen

Thank You Tonia. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. John Frick

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Mary’s Answer

Early decision is a binding choice to attend a specific school if accepted.

https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/early#:~:text=Early%20decision%20plans%20are%20binding,reply%20date%20of%20May%201.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Zemira! I agree with previous answers as well. My friend applied early decision to her college when we were in high school and got accepted as well. Early decision is if you are competitive and very certain that you will attend the college. From my experience even if you do not get in early decision you will still be considered for regular as well. I don't really think it makes a large difference, possibly as previous answers noted if you do exceed the rankings and if you really like the school such as it's your dream school! Other than that if you are considering other institutions as well, then regular decision is fine too, having your application in early is the main thing even if you are regular decision. Do not wait until later, have everything in order early and the process should go smoothly.

Best of luck!

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Jason’s Answer

Early decision means that if you are accepted, you will need to attend the college. As an ED you will have a higher chance of getting in than if you were not an ED, and you will get a notification earlier than others. Downsides: You will have to pay a nonrefundable deposit and will have to withdraw all other applications if you are accepted. Only do an ED for your dream school. And please be aware of senioritis because they can easily rescind the offer if your grades drop too much, and then you would have to opt for community college because you withdrew all your other applications.

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