Deadlines, deadlines! The college application and financial aid process are chock-full of them—FAFSA, CSS Profile, etc—and one is fast approaching. The most immediate deadline concerns your choice of college—Early Decision/Early Action. This comes in right around the corner on November 1st.So far all you know is that this has to do with colleges applications. Well, let’s get a better picture. Early Decision and Early Action are college application options that over 400 schools have adopted, allowing students to apply to school earlier (in November) than they normally would. The most important factor here is that not only do you apply earlier, but you hear back from a school faster, too.Typically students find out which of the schools they’ve applied to have accepted them sometime in March or April of their senior year of high school. The benefit to Early Decision/Action is that you know who’s banging down your door (hopefully college choice #1) by the wintertime. Actually, applying early sometimes ups your chance for college acceptance (“Early bird” and all that), so it’s worth it to consider.
Now these two options, Early Decision and Early Action, are often lumped together due to similarities. However, it is important to note some key differences between the two application routes.
- Early Decision. Think of this as a contract—binding. You decide to “sign with” a particular school early on in the application/admission process. You can only apply to one school in this manner (better make it your top choice!), and if they accept you and offer good financial aid, you are contracted to attend. While you’re in the “waiting stage” for this, you are permitted to apply to other schools and wait the standard time for admission decisions, but acceptance to the early decision school requires withdrawal of all other applications later.
- Early Action. Going this route means that you’re not committing yourself to one school right away. It’s not binding, and one way to look at it is that it’s like being an “at-will” employee. When you are “at-will,” you can leave your job without giving the standard 2-week notice, you haven’t signed a paper indicating you will work for Company X for a set time, etc. The bottom line with early action is that if you get accepted, you can still take some time to weigh school options, rather than having an obligation to attend automatically (you can make your choice as late as springtime). Another perk is that you can apply to more than one school this way!
Even if you’re heart is set on a specific school and you wish to apply early, definitely keep your options open. There’s a whole world of education, after all! Most college applicants have at least 5 schools that they are reaching out to. With all of this in mind, use every opportunity you can to get into a good school, and don’t forget your deadlines! The Early Decisions/Early Action deadline for college applications is November 1st!