For students beginning to think about college admissions, there is a lot of work to be done, from visiting and researching schools to taking standardized tests and building a strong admissions portfolio. Another consideration is whether to apply Early Decision.
First, what is Early Decision? Early Decision is a binding contract with a chosen school, requiring the student to attend if he or she is accepted. Applicants typically have a smaller pool of competitors if they apply Early Decision, and they are notified much earlier of the admissions decision. Early Decision is often confused with Early Action, which also provides applicants with an early admissions response. However, Early Action is not binding. The specific terms of different schools’ Early Decision and Early Action options may differ, so be sure to conduct research thoroughly before applying.
Early Decision should only be considered if the student is absolutely positive that the chosen school is their first choice and that it is feasible logistically and financially to attend if accepted. In addition, Early Decision applicants should make sure that they fit the admissions profile of the selected school. If their SAT/ACT scores or GPA are lower than the school’s listed target, or if they differ significantly from the profile in any way, it may not be a wise decision to apply Early Decision.
The timing of application submission – that is, whether to apply Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, Rolling Decision, etc. – should be part of a bigger strategy conversation around optimizing a student’s chances of gaining admission.