Many colleges offer the opportunity to submit an early application to receive an admissions decision earlier in year. Some of these early deadline options are Rolling Admissions, Early Action, Single Choice Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, and Early Decision. If you’re considering submitting any early college applications, you should familiarize yourself with the policies and nuances of these deadlines, especially if one of your top choice colleges offers Early Decision.
The most important thing to know about Early Decision is that it’s a binding agreement. When you’re admitted under Early Decision, you’re obligated to withdraw your other college applications and accept the offer of admission. You, your school counselor, and one of your parents (or a legal guardian) must sign an agreement to that effect during the application process. Early Decision is a significant commitment and should not be taken lightly.
If you apply Early Decision, in addition to being admitted, your application can be deferred or denied. If your application is denied, you can’t re-apply under Regular Decision. If your application is deferred, you will be reconsidered in the spring, and sent another admissions decision by April 1. When your application is deferred, you are released from the Early Decision agreement – if you’re admitted in the spring, you are no longer obligated to attend and can wait until May 1st to make your decision.
Early Decision deadlines are typically in early to mid-November, and decisions are released by mid-December, before winter vacation. Some colleges also offer a second round of Early Decision (sometimes called Early Decision II) with deadlines in early to mid-January, and decisions are released by mid-February. You can only apply Early Decision to one school, but you can submit Early Action or Rolling Admissions applications to other schools, as long as your other schools don’t have any restrictions of their own. The only exception is if you were denied or deferred in the first round of Early Decision, then you can apply to a different school under Early Decision II.
Applying Early Decision is a significant commitment, but it also has advantages. If you’re admitted, then you’re done with the college application process by the time winter break comes around! In addition, Early Decision acceptance rates are often higher than overall acceptance rates. Since you’re obligated to attend if admitted, colleges take that commitment into account when reviewing your application. However, applying Early Decision does not guarantee admission, and you must still submit the strongest application you can. If you want colleges to consider your fall semester grades from senior year, or if you want to take the SAT or ACT after October, you may not be ready for Early Decision.
Early Decision is a great option for students who are truly ready to submit a strong application, and are fully committed to attending their first choice college. If you’re considering applying Early Decision, be sure to talk it over with your parents and college counselor to decide if it’s the best choice for you.