4 Things You Need to Know Before Submitting Your Early Decision Application
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
Early decision college admissions deadlines are just around the corner. Maybe you have everything in order, and the only next step is to submit your application. But before you hit send, make sure you’re aware of these four considerations about early decision.
Early Decision: A Recap
Early decision (ED) is a single-choice option, meaning you can only apply to one college under the plan. As the name suggests, you’ll submit your application earlier than regular decision, usually in October or November, and hear back in winter, usually December. The early decision II plan offered by some colleges has a timeline closer to regular decision, and we’ll discuss that in further detail below.
One very important fact to keep in mind about early decision is that unlike with early action plans, decisions are binding, meaning that if you’re admitted, you are required to matriculate at the college that accepted you.
What You Need to Know
1. You will improve your chances of admission.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s State of College Admission Report, ED applicants had a higher acceptance rate than regular decision applicants—60 percent vs. 48 percent on average in 2017.
The yield rate for ED admits was 87 percent, considerably higher than the average yield for all students admitted to ED colleges, 25 percent. (The 13 percent may account for students with unusual circumstances, such as health, family, or financial emergencies.)
That suggests that students who apply ED have an advantage in admissions. However, it’s important to keep this advantage in perspective. Many ED applicants are self-selecting, meaning they believe they are a good match for the school and often have stronger profiles, and thus may have had a higher likelihood of admission than the average candidate anyway. That doesn’t mean you’re not increasing your odds of admission by applying ED, but if you have a weak profile, simply applying early isn’t going to mean the difference between admission and rejection.
2. You will not be able to compare financial aid awards.
Since you are obligated to matriculate at a school that accepts you ED, you can’t leverage and compare financial aid awards. Therefore, if your financial situation is such that you may not be able to attend without a better offer, you should probably apply early action or regular decision.
While a college will likely waive your obligation to attend if you truly can’t afford the tuition, you should try to prevent this type of situation from happening by assessing your financial situation and having a frank discussion with your parents about finances before you apply so you know what is with the realm of reason and possibility.
Applying ED means you will be signing a contract agreeing to attend the college if you are admitted, and while it’s not legally binding, there may be consequences if you attempt to leverage awards or attend another college for no meaningful reason—such as your admission being revoked from all the schools in question.
3. ED programs are single choice.
Unlike with early action, you can’t apply to multiple schools under the early decision plan. As noted above, you must sign a contract stating you will matriculate if you admitted when you send your application. If you are accepted, you must withdraw your applications from other schools if you’ve already submitted them.
That’s why it’s imperative that the college to which you apply under the ED plan is your absolute first choice. Don’t just apply ED to ease your anxiety and find out your admissions decision sooner or because it will give you an advantage; if you don’t have a clear top choice, it’s best to apply under early action and/or regular decision plans instead.
4. There are different types of early decision.
Some colleges offer both ED I and ED II. Under the second plan, you’re generally able to follow a similar timeline to that of regular decision, so you’ll gain the same admissions advantage as you do with ED I without having to rush to complete your application. Alternatively, if you are denied admission or deferred under an ED I plan, you can enjoy that same admissions boost at another college under the ED II plan.
Do keep in mind that, like ED I, ED II is binding, so you’re giving up the option of matriculating at another school if you’re admitted under this plan, including an ED I college from which you were initially deferred.
For ED I and ED II deadlines at all schools offering the plans, check out Early Decision Deadlines for Every College.
Early decision offers plenty of advantages to students. For one, you’re increasing your odds of admission, particularly if you were a borderline candidate. You’ll also be able to reduce the anxiety of having to wait until April to “know your fate”—assuming, of course, you’re admitted.
There are also some drawbacks. The plan is binding, so it’s important to make sure the college is absolutely your first choice. You also won’t be able to compare financial aid offers, so if that’s an important factor, you may not want to apply ED.
Weigh these considerations carefully when making your choice. After all, these four years are formative and crucial—so be judicious when assessing your needs and how colleges can meet them.
Looking for help with your college applications? Check out our College Application Guidance Program. When you sign up for our program, we carefully pair you with the perfect admissions specialist based on your current academic and extracurricular profile and the schools in which you’re interested. Your personal application specialist will help you with branding, essays, and interviews, and provide you with support and guidance in all other aspects of the application process.
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.