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    Early Decision vs. Early Action: Everything You Need to Know

    Posted September 13, 2023, 9:21 am by TeenLife
    acceptance letter in a computer

    Applying for college can be a stressful time for everyone involved, including students and their families and even their school district and community. Everyone hopes that the next graduating class is admitted to the academic institution of their dreams.

    In recognition of this time of year, TeenLife is going to do an extensive breakdown of the college application process. If you have a particular topic you’d like to learn more about, then just email us at help@teenlife.com for more information.

    The topic of this blog is Early Decision and Early Action applications. It will cover the pros/cons and how a student can determine which option is best for them (if at all).

    Early Decision vs. Early Action

    Early decisions are binding and students who are accepted under early decision are now obligated to attend the college or university. Early action is not binding and students do not have to commit to the academic institution until the normal reply date for the school.

    Students who plan on applying to early decision can only apply to one early decision and can expect a reply before the end of the year. If you are accepted as an early decision applicant, then be prepared to withdraw your applications from other schools and place your nonrefundable deposit.

    Early action is the in-between point for regular applications and early decision. You can receive your admission decision earlier in the application cycle and are not obligated to accept the offer.

    Also, it is worth noting that most of the colleges that offer early decision or early action are based on the east coast.

    Why Should You Apply for Early Decision or Early Action?

    Some students have a dream college in mind and know that if they are accepted there, then they will attend over any other school. Students who choose early decision or early action should also have a GPA and relevant test scores that fit the college’s typically admitted student profile. On top of that, the early decision admission rate is about 17% higher than the regular admission acceptance rate.

    College applications cost money, and if you know that you would attend one college above all others, then it is wise to not waste money or time on a bunch of applications for schools you are not interested in. But if you are not admitted to your top choice, then you may have enough time to apply to backups or reassess your plan for the next year.

    A growing number of colleges offer Early Decision II, with a deadline in the beginning of the following year instead of the fall. These colleges include Boston University, Bowdoin College, Johns Hopkins, NYU, University of Chicago, and more.

    Why Should You Not Apply for Early Decision or Early Action?

    The average cost of college tuition is rising by 12% each year from 2010 to 2022. Cost of books, materials, housing, and more have all risen in the past decade. Applying to college is a huge financial decision, and applying to early decision or early action can make it hard to weigh your financial options.

    While early decision and early action results will include financial aid options, it does not allow students and their families to compare offers that can put a top choice at second due to price.

    Additionally, if you are not 100% committed to your early decision college, then you may face serious repercussions for not enrolling upon acceptance.

    Can I Back Out of an Early Decision Admission?

    Short answer: yes.

    Long answer: yes, but not without consequences. You cannot be forced to attend a school against your will and the school will not sue you for the cost of tuition. However, an early decision application is based on good faith and a promise to only apply to one and to attend if admitted.

    By backing out, the student is making a statement about their character and ethics by refusing to uphold an agreement. Many college admissions experts say that colleges share their list of early decision applicants and compare to make sure there is no overlap. They also will look at the early decision list and see if there is an overlap with their regular admission applicants.

    So if you applied to an early decision for one college and then backed out, there is a chance that your applications to other colleges in the regular admissions cycle will be rejected. It could potentially haunt you for the rest of your academic career as well and blacklist you from the college’s graduate program in the future.

    Is There a Way to Back Out of Early Decision Easily?

    Yes. Colleges are not heartless. Duke University reported that 1% of their accepted early decision applicants do not attend due to financial hardship. Life happens. There could be a death in the family, a health crisis, or insufficient finances and colleges are understanding about these circumstances.

    If you have a legitimate reason to not honor your early decision acceptance, then you can be excused without any of the aforementioned outcomes happening.

    TL;DR: Should I Apply for Early Decision or Early Action?

    Ask yourself this:

    • Are you 100% sure this is the college you will attend, no matter what?
    • Do you want to see if any other college would offer acceptance?
    • Are you prepared to commit to their college if/when you are accepted?

    If you answered “yes”, “no”, and “yes” for the above questions, then applying for an early decision could be right for you. It is a big step so speak to your family and school counselors about it before you make that choice.

    If you are not so committed but have a strong preference and want to know if you are accepted earlier than the following spring, then early action is a good option. While early action doesn’t always lead to a boost in acceptance rate for admissions, it does move the needle for highly selective schools like Harvard University.

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