Early Action and Early Decision

Early Action and Early Decision applications can serve as a great advantage to college applicants.  With deadlines fast approaching – November 1, for many EA or ED schools – I thought a description of advantages and disadvantages to both of these programs would be a good topic for this week’s blog post.


1.  Getting apps done early.  Students and parents face the frenzy of early fall applications, but get most everything done well before the holidays.  This is a great benefit for the mental health of the typical family! 

2.  In most cases applying under a school’s Early Decision or Early Action program increases a student’s chances for admission because colleges want to know who’s interested in them.  Colleges also need to meet enrollment numbers, and the earlier they know of their on track to do so, the better.  But families need to be careful for two reasons:  First, some schools’ early programs actually deny admission to a larger proportion of their applicants.  Families are best advised to run the numbers which are readily available on most school’s web sites.  Second, the pool of students who apply under these programs is usually much stronger.  So while the admit rate is often higher than the regular decision admit rate, the kids who apply under ED or EA, are typically much stronger academically.  They have usually begun their college search as sophomores of juniors and have an organized strategy, not to mention better grades and test scores.


1.  Because Early Decision applicants are locked in, they will not have the opportunity to compare financial aid or scholarship offers.  This could be an expensive mistake for families who are unable to write a check for full tuition.

2.  For students who are marginal applicants to their top schools, waiting for 1st or 2nd quarter senior year grades to be posted, can increase their chances for admission – assuming, of course, that their senior year grades are stronger.  So applying by November 1 or even November 15 could hurt some students’ chances if their grades are a weakness in their application.

Families should strategically weigh their options, and thoughtfully decide whether Early Decision/Early Action programs will aid their candidacy.