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College Talk Blog

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Early Decision? Early Action? Regular? Arghhhhhh!

Posted on August 10, 2017 at 3:51 PM


The fall 2018 college admission season has officially begun. Students are agonizing over which admission timeline to use. Should they apply early? Will applying early help or hurt their chances of admission? Is there a penalty to any of the timelines? Can they use one timeline for all colleges?

When I talk with parents, some use the terms early action and early decision interchangeably without realizing there is a difference. They too are wondering what their teen should do. Some pressure their teen to get everything done quickly and file early not realizing this advice could compromise essay and application quality.

The facts are:

  • some colleges offer early decision and often favor those who choose that option
  • students who choose early decision may only use that option at 1 college
  • early decision is a promise to attend if accepted and is binding
  • students who choose early decision and change their minds lose their admission deposit at a minimum
  • many colleges offer early decision and early action while others offer one or the other
  • early action is non-binding and results in an early admission decision without an obligation
  • regular decision is non-binding and results in a later admission decision
  • colleges differ on whether applying early affects admission decision and, if so, how
  • many admission directors say it is simply a choice to know your admission decision earlier or later

Students should choose the timeline that benefits them. There is one caveat: it is not unusual for an early action deadline to coincide with the admission deadline to be considered for scholarships.

Categories: Success Hints