College Early Admissions: Is it Right for you

Historically, the rate of college admission among early applicants has been higher than the overall admission rate. Sometimes, students who apply under early admission plans have a better chance of acceptance than they would through the regular admission process. Colleges benefit from these plans as well, because they get students who really want to go to the school and commit early in the process.  Are your chances better if you apply early? Is Early Admission To College right for you?

Although early admission programs are popular in US, it is said that approximately two out of three of the united states’ top universities and colleges offer some kind of early admission program, however, the benefits and obligations involved vary from one school to another. Therefore, it is very important for college applicants to make sure to understand early admission options, in order to make informed decision.

Generally speaking there are two types of Early Admission processes: Early Decision often referred to as ED and Early Action, often referred to as EA. Both programs involve an earlier application deadline than the normal admission process does, and earlier notification of admission decision. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) programs are a particular kind of early action program.

What is Early Decision Admission?

Early Decision (ED) programs are usually binding, which means you must attend that college or university if it accepts you and gives you a reasonable financial aid package. Early decision applicants are expected to submit only one early decision application to one school. You can submit applications to other schools under normal application procedure, but agree that you will withdraw all those applications if you are accepted to the early decision school. College applicants apply to your first-choice school, usually by the November of your senior year. Schools usually make a decision by mid-December.

Possible outcome

Typically, a candidate who has applied early decision can receive one of three outcomes. The applicant may be admitted, in which case you are bound to attend the school; rejected, in which case you will not be able to attend the school; or deferred, and in which case you will be reconsidered for admission with the second round of early decision application or with the regular application. Generally when you are deferred you are released from the binding early decision agreement.


Usually, admission rates for early applicants tend to be higher than the overall admission rates; this is particularly true for the most selective colleges. One of the factors is that candidates who apply early can only present colleges with their transcripts until the end of junior year of high school and therefore they are strong applicants with very persuasive transcripts. The other factor is that candidates who apply early have dedicated themselves to a school and are more likely to match the school’s admission standards. If accepted, you can bypass all the admission stress that comes with senior year; if you are not accepted, in most cases, your application is deferred until the final acceptance decision is made, and in this case you have more than one chance to get in. In addition, applying through one of these plans is a good way to communicate your interest in a school, which may convince admission officers to consider your application more seriously.


If candidates are admitted under early decision, you are unable to compare financial aid offers from different colleges. You will have to rule out other schools that may offer more attractive financial aid packages. Applying Early Decision means that you have made up your mind early (in October) about where you would like to go, which may push you to choose a favored college too soon before you have had the chance to study other options and reflect on your choices. You will have less time to explore your options. You will not be able to improve your profile with your first semester grades and activities in senior year. Candidates who apply early are usually very qualified, so it is harder to make your application stand out.

What is Early Action or Notification Admission?

Generally, there are two types of early action programs, called restrictive early action and non-restrictive early action. Restrictive EA allows candidates to apply to only one early action school, while, there are no such restriction on non-restrictive early action. For non-restrictive early action, unlike early decision, an applicant is free to apply to other colleges and make your final decision in the late spring. You are under no obligation to attend that school. You can also apply to as many Early Action schools as you like.

Single-choice early action plan works the same way as other early action plans, but candidates may not apply early, either early action or early decision to any other school although you can apply to as many colleges as you want under a Regular Admission timeframe.

Early Decision and Early Action Application Schedule

If you are considering on early decision or early action, here are the steps for you to refer to:

Junior Year(January-May)

Take SAT I and/or ACT

Visit colleges during spring break if you can

Junior Year(May-June)

Take SAT Subject Tests™

Work hard to get good grades; colleges only use a transcript through junior year for early admission

Senior Year(September-October)

Complete applications

Get teachers’ help on recommendation forms or letters

File early decision or early action application according to school deadline and procedure

Take SATI/II or ACT if necessary (October is the last test date that makes scores available in time for early admission programs)

Register for CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE online or using a printed form

Senior Year (November)

Continue filing early admission application according to specific school deadline

Follow up with teacher’s recommendation

Work on regular-decision application as a backup

File the PROFILE and any other college-based financial aid forms

Our Thoughts and Recommendation

Early admission programs are not for everyone. If you are sure of what school you want to go to, and your junior year’s grades, extracurricular activities, etc., are strong enough to secure admission, you can benefit from early admission. If you are not absolutely sure about where you want to go to college and are not reasonably sure you will be accepted, it is not a good idea to apply early. However, we think an applicant should be very cautious to seek a binding early decision from a school. A thoughtful college search and a careful assessment of your readiness to present a strong application as early as November 1st are key factors to college early admission. Candidates who need more time, for whatever reason, will be better served by Regular Decision process. And also we would remind applicants who plan to weigh offers and financial aid packages from several colleges later in the spring and for applicants who are advantageous to have more of your senior year work to show a college should not apply early.

Use College Handbook to do your research and find the colleges and universities, which offer early admission plans. Hope the information above on Early Admission To College is helpful. Best wishes on your dream school admission!

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