Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Admission: What’s the Difference?
Applying for early decision, early action or regular admission is a choice every potential college student needs to make and as a parent, you should have facts available on each to help your child make an informed selection. According to the College Board, more than 400 colleges offer either early decision or early action application options so your child’s first-choice school could very well begin accepting applications (not to mention providing your child’s admission fate) months before other institutions. Getting materials in ahead of the pack may seem like an easy choice but may not be the ideal one, as each option comes with its own set of guidelines.
Did your child begin expressing an interest in a particular school as soon as they could talk? If so, early decision is the option for them because if your child is admitted, they are contractually bound to attend that school. Your child can apply to only one college as early decision but they are allowed to apply to others during regular admission just in case they are not accepted early; if they are accepted, however, all other applications to other schools must be withdrawn. For students who are surer than sure about the school they want to attend, early decision is great because it shows the college how serious you are about going there; the downside is that if you get in and the financial aid package isn’t exactly what you expected, you may have to take out additional loans or find more scholarships than you initially anticipated in order to afford it.
Early action is similar to early decision because it allows your child to send in their application early but it is not binding like early decision. This is in essence a best-of-both-worlds option: If accepted, your child can accept the offer right away or wait until the spring and compare all of their offers before making a final decision. Your child also has the option to apply early action to other schools, where with early decision they must pick just one. This route would be good for students interested in several highly-competitive schools but still unsure of their number one choice. A limited amount of schools have recently started offering single-choice early action as well, a program that prevents students from applying early to other schools but still does not bind them to their single-choice early action school.
This is the option the majority of students choose, as there are no restrictions as to how many colleges they can apply to and are not bound to attend a specific one just because they were accepted first. Your child will have more time to get their application in order and additional grades to prove their merit – the latter being extremely important for students on the cusp of admissions requirements. Your child will find out if they were admitted or rejected later than those who applied early decision but the tradeoff is that they can weigh all of their options and make their choice based on more factors.