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earlyIf you are a high school student who is planning to apply to Universities in USA for an Undergraduate degree, you might have come across the terms ‘Early Decision’ or ‘Early Action’ and wondered what exactly is it and what’s the difference between the two.

Early Decision and Early action plans are very beneficial for those students who have carefully analyzed their college options and have a strong preference for getting into one particular institution. More and more Universities and colleges including the top schools are offering early admission plans to students, sometimes creating confusion in the minds of the students who are already under pressure of the cumbersome application procedure.

It is very important for the students to note that different schools have different rules and obligations regarding the early admissions but often use the same language to mean completely different things. This means the applicants have to be very careful to avoid any mistakes.

Early Decision Vs Early Action – What’s the difference?

Both ED and EA plans are used to make applications earlier than the application deadlines and thus an early notification of admissions from Universities. The applicants are usually required to apply by October OR November and the Universities will notify you on the acceptance or rejection of your application by December or January. However there is a difference between Early Action and Early Decision.

Early Decision (Binding)

  • In an ED plan, you can only apply to one college under the ‘Early Decision’ plan.
  • If the college accepts you and offers you a place with adequate financial aid, then it becomes compulsory for you to go to this school that is why it is called ‘Binding’.
  • You can make applications to other schools using the regular admission process or early action, but if the school you applied under ‘Early Decision’ accepts you; you will have to withdraw your applications from the other Universities or colleges.

Early Action (Non-Binding)

  • In an EA application, the student applies earlier than the application deadline and hears the response from the University early, but does not have to respond to the admission offer until late.
  • A candidate can apply to several colleges under the Early Action plan.
  • It is up to the candidate to accept the offer immediately, to reject it or wait until spring to make a decision.

Early Action (Single choice)

  • It is the same as a normal Early Action plan, but in this case you can only apply to one School under the Early Action plan.
  • You can apply to other colleges under the regular admission.
  • If accepted by the University the candidate applied for under single –choice Early Action, you can wait till later to respond to the offer. Unlike Early Decision, it is not binding.

Who should Apply Early/Benefits of applying Early

  • A candidate who has done a rigorous research on Universities.
  • Is absolutely sure that the particular college is her/his first choice.
  • Meets or exceeds the average entry requirements of that school/college in terms of SAT score, GPA etc.
  • Has excellent academics and extra-curricular activity preparation
  • Students who have written their SAT in October so that scores can reach the Universities in time.
  • Applying early and getting a decision can save money and time.
  • Reduce stress by already knowing which school you would be attending.

Who should not apply early/Disadvantages of applying early

  • Do not apply for early admissions if you are not sure about the Universities.
  • Students who still need more time to build up their profile or improve grades are not advised to apply for early admissions.
  • Committing to one college puts pressure on students to make serious decisions before they’ve explored all their options.
  • Most colleges do not notify ED and EA applicants of admission until December 15. Because of the usual deadlines for applications, this means that if a student is rejected by the ED college, there are only two weeks left to send in other applications