Early Action and Early Decision Q&A

Early Action and Early Decision Q&A

My friends are applying to universities in the US and are talking about applying early through a process called Early Decision? What is this?

Sheetal Sheth


Early Decision as the name signifies is a process where you apply for admission early – generally between November 1st to 30th and get a decision on your application before the end of December. Early Decision is binding which means that if you get admission you are obligated to attend the university. This means that if you change your mind and want to later attend another university, you cannot. By applying for early decision you are committing to attend a particular university if admitted. While this may limit your options, the main advantage to applying early is that you will increase your admission chances. For example, University of Pennsylvania admitted 9.29% of students under their Regular Decision and 22.02% under Early Decision. Some may attribute this to a more qualified pool of candidates who apply under ED, but if a particular university is your first choice, you should consider applying Early Decision for that university.


Keep in mind that ideally you should have taken all the necessary exams such as the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject tests and TOEFL or IELTS by the Early Decision deadline. However, some universities will allow you a grace period of 15-30 days to submit these tests.


Remember you can apply to only 1 college under the Early Decision process and if you are admitted, you must withdraw any other applications that you have made.


Finally, Early Decision is more common at the undergraduate level but there a few universities now that offer Early Decision for MBA programmes as well.


What is Early Action? Is Early Action the same as Early Decision?

Rahul Kacheria


Early Action is an admission process wherein you apply early to a particular university and you get an admission decision early – you apply between Nov 1st to Nov 30th (depending on the university) and get a decision before the end of December. The main difference between Early Action and Early Decision is that Early Action is not binding. If you get admitted under Early Action, you can still decline the admission offer if you later get a better offer from another university. The main advantage of applying under Early Action is that you get a final decision on your application quickly.


Can I apply to both Early Decision and Early Action? How should I choose which colleges to apply to for Early Decision and which ones for Early Action? Can I just apply for admissions by the normal deadline?

Yash Shah


You cannot apply to one university for both Early Decision and Early Action. And some universities do not allow you to apply for Early Decision to their university and Early Action to another university. In addition, you can apply to only 1 university for Early Decision. Before you make any ED or EA applications, make sure to check the admission policies of each of the universities you plan to apply to.


Ideally you should choose your most competitive college and apply for Early Decision to that college (if it is your first choice). Since this is a binding process be very sure that this is the college you want to attend. Also remember that not all colleges offer Early Decision. In case your first choice college offers Early Action, take it, as you will get an admission decision faster. If you are not ready with your applications or need more time to appear for the SAT, ACT, TOEFL or SAT Subject tests, you do not have to apply under ED or EA. In such cases you can apply for Regular Decision.


If I am admitted under Early Decision is there any way I can decline the admission offer and attend another university?

Komal Khaturia


In most cases if you are admitted under Early Decision, you have to attend that particular university. However, if you write to the university and demonstrate exceptional circumstances as to why you cannot attend their university, you may get permission to decline the admission offer and attend another university.  If you have applied for financial aid and you get admission but no financial aid, you may be able to decline your admission offer.


If I am denied under Early Decision, can I apply for Regular Decision to the same university?

Raj Thakker


There are three things that can happen after you have applied for admissions under Early Decision. One you are admitted, two you are denied and three you are moved to the Regular Decision pool of applicants. If you are denied under Early Decision you cannot apply under Regular Decision. However, if the university cannot admit you under Early Decision, they may consider your application under the Regular Decision admission process. If this does happen, you will not be obligated to attend the university if admitted under the Regular Decision process. In either case the university will inform you about their decision.




Karan Gupta

The author is an Educationist and alumnus of Harvard Business School


This column appeared in the Mumbai Mirror, Times of India

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