Applying Early Decision: Is it Worth it to be an Early Bird?

About 450 colleges offer students the choice to apply early, but what does it mean? And more importantly, is it worth it? First, let’s break down these early admissions plans as though they are a relationship status.

Early Decision (ED)

(You will be Married to the school.)

Students applying ED usually submit their application in November and receive a decision by December. You can only apply to one school early decision, and if accepted, you MUST attend that college and withdraw all other applications. ED is a binding agreement.

Early Action (EA)

(You’ll be In an open relationship with possibly multiple schools.)

EA is similar to ED, but it’s nonbinding. Students will receive a decision in January or February, and if accepted, you do not have to commit to that school. You can still continue to apply to other schools under regular admission, and give the school a decision same as regular admission. 

Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) or Restricted Early Action

(You’re pushing the  “It’s complicated” territory.)

SCEA is like EA in that it’s nonbinding; however, you cannot apply early to any other school until you’ve heard back from your SCEA school. Once you’ve gotten the school’s decision, you can apply to other schools.

Should I apply early decision?

The good news is ED acceptance rates are often significantly higher than regular decision acceptance rates. So if you’re sure about the school and you’re prepared to submit your application, ED is a great option.

However, since it’s a binding agreement, you won’t get to see financial aid packages from other schools. You could turn down the offer if the financial aid isn’t adequate, but by then, it may be too late for you to apply anywhere else. If you apply EA or SCEA, you probably won’t get the same admissions edge as you would applying ED, but you’ll have the chance to compare financial aid offers before you make a decision.


If you’re still choosing between schools and financial aid packages, EA and SCEA will give you some flexibility to make your decision. If you’ve done your research and are 100% committed to your dream school, then apply ED. You’ve got better chances of getting in, and you can rest easy in December while your friends panic until May.