Like all decisions in life, there are pros and cons that follow the path you decide to take. During the college selection process and certainly during the fall application time period, some students are faced with the dilemma of applying early decision or early action. It’s important to note this is a decision that should not be taken lightly and should come after much thought and consideration.

First, let’s understand some differences between the two. Early Decision is binding which means a student who is accepted must attend that specific college. Early Action is non-binding, which means the student has until May 1st to make their final decision and notify all campuses. Both will require the student to apply early, typically by November. However, the final admissions offer for Early Decision will arrive by December, while the Early Action is after the New Year. If the student is offered admissions in the Early Decision format they must drop all other applications immediately and accept the offer. Early Action allows the student to have a little more time and thought because they have until May 1st.

Why would or should students consider applying through one of these two options? First, they should absolutely have done their homework about the school, visited the campus, desired majors/programs, sat in on classes, and know it’s the perfect fit. The opposite holds true as well; a student should not arbitrarily apply to a school as early decision or action with little or no research, based on the school’s reputation, or just complete the application and move forward. If admitted, the implications could still backfire in the long run if the student finds him/her attending a school they really do not love.

Another point to consider is the Financial Aid opportunities or, in the case of Early Decision, the possible loss of aid. The reason I bring this up is because if a student applies Early Decision they will hear back with admission by December along with some type of financial aid package. Keep in mind they must notify the school and drop all other applications; Important to consider: what if another school comes to the table with a better financial aid package that will benefit the student and family in the future?

Some believe applying Early Decision or Early Action will increase their chances of earning admissions. That’s not always the case, and really only the admission board knows the answer, which I can’t imagine they share. What we do know is the competition is steep for schools that typically offer these types of application options, but as I like to say if you have the numbers to compete and are absolutely positive this is “the school” it’s definitely something to consider.