Are you considering apply to college early? Many students are interested in this option, especially as acceptance rates to competitive colleges continue to drop. There’s much to be said for early application notification programs, which include Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) programs. These programs allow you to receive notification of whether you have been accepted to your chosen college in advance of the Regular Decision (RD) notification date. A given school generally only offers ED or EA consideration to applicants, not both.

 

Early application notification programs can be beneficial both for applicants and for the colleges themselves. Applicants can use the process to demonstrate their enthusiasm for a particular school, take advantage of acceptance rates that are often higher in an early admissions round, and hopefully get their college applications out of the way considerably earlier than most of their classmates. Colleges can use the process to start filling their matriculating classes early and to keep their yield rates high.

 

ED and EA are not for everyone, and they come with certain inherent risks. However, if you’re a student with a strong preference for your first-choice school, and if you’re sure that that you are an excellent fit for that school, a program like ED may be a good choice for you.

 

Some schools additionally offer applicants a choice between two versions of the ED program. These are known as ED I and ED II. While the two ED programs are very similar in the way they function, they operate on different timelines, each of which has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

 

In this post, we’ll go over the differences between the ED I and ED II timelines, the pros and cons of each timeline, and how you can incorporate ED I and ED II applications into your overall college application strategy.

 

What’s the difference between ED I and ED II?

 

For the most part, ED I and ED II programs are very similar. They’re both ED programs, and as such, they allow you as an applicant to make a commitment to one particular college and receive notification of your admissions decision at an earlier date than you would if applying through the RD process.

 

Both ED I and ED II programs are binding. When you submit your application to either type of ED program, you agree that if the college accepts you in the ED round, you will attend. (You’ll typically sign some official paperwork to this effect.) This is a major commitment and not something to be taken lightly, as it’s very difficult to get out of; typically, the only acceptable reason for going back on your ED commitment is if you can’t afford it.  

 

ED I and ED II programs are also both single-choice. This means that they restrict your ability to apply to multiple schools in the same round of applications. For instance, you are only allowed to apply to one ED I school, and attempting to get around this rule can result in serious consequences for you and even for your high school.

 

However, you may be able to apply to one ED I school and one ED II school. (We’ll discuss this option in greater detail later on in this post.) You are also generally permitted to apply to EA schools in addition to your ED school(s), unless the policies of your EA school explicitly forbid it. If you’re thinking about applying early, you should always carefully look over the individual regulations each school makes regarding its application procedures to determine which combination of schools is right for you.

 

Whether you apply ED I or ED II, you should only do so if you’re very sure about your first-choice college. If you are interested in applying early, but aren’t ready to commit to a particular college, ED is probably not the right choice for you. However, EA programs are non-binding, which might be more appropriate for your needs.

 

Where ED I and ED II programs differ is in their timelines, both in terms of application due dates and in terms of when you’ll hear back about your admissions decision. As you might guess, ED I programs have earlier deadlines than ED II programs.

 

For a typical ED I program, you’ll submit your application by October or November of your senior year of high school. You’ll generally hear back about your admissions decision by mid-December. You may either be accepted, rejected, or deferred at that point.

 

If you are deferred, you are released from your ED I commitment to that college, and your application is later reconsidered with the rest of the RD application pool. You’ll receive a final verdict on your application whenever the RD applicants hear back, generally in March or April. You will not be obligated to attend the school should you be admitted in the RD round.

 

For a typical ED II program, you’ll submit your application by around January 1st, which is often the same deadline as for RD applications. You’ll likely hear back about your admissions decision in mid-February. As with ED I, you may be accepted, rejected, or deferred to the RD admissions pool at that point.

 

It’s worth noting that even though both ED I and ED II applicant pools generally have higher acceptance rates than RD applicant pools, ED admission in either round is not a sure thing, especially at very competitive colleges. In other words, yes, you’ll still need to prepare applications to other colleges for the RD round.

 

If you apply ED I and are accepted, you may not have to actually hit “submit” on your RD applications, but you’ll still want to have them ready to go. You don’t want to find yourself in the position of not being accepted to your ED I school in mid-December and having to scramble to put together your applications to other schools by January. (If you apply ED II, of course, you’ll most likely be submitting your RD applications at the same time.)

 

Not every college offers an option to apply early, and not every college that takes ED applications participates in both the ED I and the ED II processes. ED II is generally less popular with educational institutions, and is most often found at private liberal-arts colleges. None of the schools in the Ivy League have ED II, and it’s very seldom an option at public schools either.

 

When people speak about “ED” generically, they are usually referring to the ED I timeline. If a college that you’re interested in offers an ED II option, its website and application materials will explicitly mention and provide guidelines for how to apply ED II.

 

Keep in mind that the deadlines given in this post are generalizations across the range of colleges that offer ED I and ED II programs, and the details may differ from school to school. Whichever round you apply in, you should always look up and abide by the specific deadlines given by your chosen ED school.

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ED I and ED II?

 

Again, ED I and ED II are very similar in practice. They’re both binding single-choice ED programs which allow you to receive an admissions decision in advance of the RD timeline in exchange for committing to attend that college if accepted. Because of this, ED I and ED II share many of the same general pros and cons.

 

By applying through either ED round, you can demonstrate your enthusiasm about attending that college and take advantage of higher acceptance rates than in the RD applicant pool. However, there is some risk involved; if you’re accepted through either ED round, you won’t be able to compare financial-aid packages from multiple schools, and if you change your mind later, you may find yourself obligated to attend a school that you no longer believe is a good fit for your needs.

 

Beyond the inevitable small differences in policies and processes between individual colleges, timing is the major difference between ED I and ED II. That timing can be extremely important in a number of ways, especially if you’re trying to craft an overall strategy for where and when to apply. In addition to timing, colleges often also have different acceptance rates for their ED I and ED II applicant pools, with the ED I pool having a higher acceptance rate than the ED II pool.

 

Below, we’ll go over some of the particular pros and cons of ED I versus ED II.

 

ED I

 

  • Advantages
    • You’ll hear back about your application earlier than either ED II or RD applicants do.
    • You’ll get to show how much you love your first-choice school by applying as early as possible.
    • You may get an admissions boost because of ED I acceptance rates, which are typically higher than either ED II or RD acceptance rates.
    • If you’re accepted ED I, you’ll be able to withdraw your other college applications (or not submit them, if you haven’t submitted them yet). Instead of waiting to hear back from multiple colleges and juggling multiple admissions offers later in the spring, you’ll be able to start planning in earnest for your college experience.  
  • Disadvantages
    • Since ED I deadlines fall so early in your senior year of high school, you’ll have to make your decision on where to apply and gather your application materials much farther in advance.
    • If you attend a high school where students applying ED are rare, your guidance counselor, advisor, and/or recommenders may be less familiar with the requirements of the ED I timeline.
    • Because your senior year of high school will have barely begun when you submit your application, more weight will be given to your grades and accomplishments from your first three years of high school.
    • You’ll have to provide standardized test scores at an earlier date than if you were applying RD or ED II, which means that you’ll have fewer opportunities to retake those tests if you aren’t satisfied with your initial scores.
    • If you’re deferred ED I, you’ll need to put some time into updating your application materials for the RD round.
    • If you’re accepted ED I and have already turned in RD applications, you’ll need to withdraw those applications, and you’ll lose the money you put into other colleges’ application fees and related costs.

ED II

 

  • Advantages
    • You’ll still hear back about your application earlier than RD applicants do.
    • You’ll show your enthusiasm for your ED II school by applying early.
    • You may still get an admissions boost because of ED II acceptance rates, which are typically higher than RD acceptance rates (though lower than ED I acceptance rates).
    • Since the ED II application deadline is often the same as the RD application deadline, you won’t have to prepare your application particularly early, and your ED II college will have access to your most recent accomplishments. Also, your counselor, advisor, and/or recommenders are more likely to be familiar with the application timeline.
    • If your grades or test scores aren’t as high as you would like, you’ll have more time to raise them than if you applied ED I.
    • If you’re accepted, you’ll be able to withdraw your other college applications and won’t have to juggle choosing between multiple offers later in the spring.
  • Disadvantages
    • You won’t hear back about your application as early as ED I applicants do.
    • ED II acceptance rates are typically lower than ED I acceptance rates.
    • Since the ED II deadline is later than the ED I deadline, you’ll definitely have to apply to other colleges as well, and if you’re accepted to your ED II school, you’ll need to withdraw those applications, and you’ll lose the money you put into other colleges’ application fees and related costs.

 

Can I apply ED II if I was not accepted ED I?

 

For the most part, yes! If you are not accepted to your ED I school, you are permitted to apply to another school in the ED II round. You’re obviously not required to apply to an ED II school, but if one of your other top-choice schools has an ED II option, it’s definitely something to think about.

 

You may have noticed our use of the word “another.” No, you can’t reapply ED II to the same school that just rejected or deferred you in the ED I round, just as you can’t submit a separate RD application to a school that has rejected or deferred you in either ED round. (Yes, they’ll figure it out.)

 

The question is, should you apply to an ED II school if you were not accepted to your ED I school? That’s a bit more complicated.

 

If you were rejected from your ED I school, you are no longer in the running for the ED I school at all, and you’re free to apply to an ED II school alongside your RD schools. As we discussed earlier, you’ll get a lot of the same advantages of ED I by applying ED II, just with a later timetable. Acceptance rates for ED II applicants do tend to be higher than those for RD applicants, though they’re not quite as high as for ED I applicants.

 

You should, of course, keep in mind that ED II is just as binding as ED I. If you are accepted ED II, you will be expected to withdraw all other college applications and attend your ED II school. An ED II school should be chosen with care; it should be a college for which you’re a great fit, and which you’re certain you’d be happy attending.

 

If you have a strong second choice among the colleges to which you’d like to apply, and that college accepts ED II applications, applying to that college in the ED II round after being rejected from your first-choice college in the ED I round may be a good plan for you.

 

If you were deferred by your ED I college, however, the situation is somewhat different. You are certainly permitted to apply to a different school ED II, but doing so may not be in your best interest.

 

As you know, if you are accepted ED II, you are obligated to attend your ED II school. This is true even if you are waiting to hear back about a deferral from your ED I school— and that fact can get you into trouble. For example, here’s a hypothetical worst-case scenario:

 

  • In October or November, you apply to your first-choice college, College A, in the ED I round.
  • In December, College A defers you to the RD round. You are no longer obligated to attend College A if accepted.
  • Later in December, you apply to your second-choice college, College B, in the ED II round.
  • In February, College B accepts you as an ED II admit. You are obligated by the agreement you signed to attend College B.
  • Later in February, since you were accepted to College B, you are required to withdraw your application to College A. For whatever reason, you don’t withdraw your application. (To be clear, this is against the rules.)
  • In March or April, College A accepts you based on your deferred application.
  • Even though College A is still your first-choice school and has accepted you, you will be required to attend College B because you have made a binding commitment.
  • If you try to get out of your commitment to College B in order to attend College A, and College A finds out, College A may decide to withdraw your acceptance.
  • If College B finds you that you did not withdraw your application to College A when you were required to, College B may decide to withdraw your acceptance.

 

As you can see, applying ED II to one school after being deferred ED I from another school can put you in an unpleasant bind. Obviously, at very competitive colleges where acceptance rates are low and applicant pools are large, the odds are against you being accepted to both your ED II and your deferred ED I schools. Still, you should be aware of the risks of combining ED I and ED II applications.

 

So should you apply ED II after being deferred by your ED I school? It depends. If you’ve changed your mind and another school now seems more appealing than your ED I school, or if you’re willing to accept the risk of not being able to attend your first-choice school, applying ED II can be a great option for you.

 

In the right circumstances, whether you apply ED I or ED II, an ED program can help you have your best chance at being accepted to a college that’s a great fit for you— and alleviate some of the stress of college application season in the process. While ED is not for everyone and you should not make a binding ED commitment lightly, it’s definitely a tool you should consider for your application strategy.

Are you considering applying to college early? CollegeVine has you covered. We can explain the differences between the various types of early application programs, teach you how to plan your college application strategy, and help you navigate the often-overwhelming application process with ease. [insert links to previous blog posts later] For a free consultation with a CollegeVine admissions specialist, just fill out the form below, or go to our website for more information.

Monikah Schuschu

Monikah Schuschu

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.
Monikah Schuschu