Early Action vs. Early Decision, Understanding when to apply to College

The school year is quickly approaching and for rising Seniors, the college process is about to begin! Are you ready to begin the most excited and perhaps the most stressful ride of your life? If so, let’s explore Early Action vs. Early Decision and understand better when to apply to college.

We know that applying to college isn’t easy, especially when you don’t have all the necessary information at your disposal. Colleges basically speak their own language and it’s natural to get confused amidst the details and unrecognizable abbreviations. Luckily, Cogito World Educaiton is here today to tackle one big issue- the difference between EA and ED. In the following piece, we will discuss each other these options in detail and cover the motivation colleges have in offering each option. Let’s begin!


Early Action (EA) Defined

Early Action is a relatively new offering added by most colleges and universities in the past ten years. You’re probably familiar with the term Regular Decision (RD), the normal application deadline date. For most institutions, this deadline is sometime in January and students will receive an admission decision by March/April. EA provides students with an opportunity to apply to colleges before RD if you’re adequately prepared. EA deadlines are usually in November and students receive an admission decision before the end of December.


What’s the value of this option?

  1. Applying EA allows you to get college acceptances early, providing more time to make your final decision.
  2. Applying EA is non-binding, meaning you don’t have to immediately enroll in the University that accepts you.
  3. Universities often give EA applicants a better chance of acceptance. Submitting an EA application displays competency, initiative, and specific interest in the institution.
  4. Universities are more likely to award financial aid to EA students over RD students.

Early Decision (ED) Defined

The Early Decision option has existed at Universities for along time, but is starting to fade from the spotlight. Early Decision is another application deadline option, usually a similar date to EA, but completely different in nature. You are only permitted to apply ED to one institution. The application is binding, so if you are accepted, you must attend that institution. This option is reserved for students who are 100% positive about the institution they want to attend and what they want to study. This option is NOT recommended for undecided students or students who haven’t done significant research about the options available. Because the application is binding, the stakes are high. Applicants usually receive an admission decision sometime in December.

What’s the value of this option?

  1. Most ED application are judged more leniently that EA or RD applications, giving borderline applicants a better chance of enrollment.
  2. ED gives you an early indication of whether you will be accepted. If you get denied, you have more opportunities to apply to other institutions.
  3. ED applicants may receive more financial aid considerations


Why can’t I just apply RD? Why do I need to know about ED and EA?

While there’s no shame or harm done in applying RD, ED and EA offer intriguing opportunities for the right students. The Common Application offers great insight into the nature of the applying student, but it rarely communicates desire or passion for the institution. Students looking to effectively show these qualities might consider applying EA or ED. Additionally, if your application materials are prepared, why not apply EA and get an admission decision back quicker?

Why do Universities offer ED and EA?

Universities offer ED and EA options because they are a business, just like Amazon, Nike and others. All businesses need revenue and often this money comes from student tuition. Accepting students EA and ED gives Universities a small sample of their upcoming applicant pool. This provides them further time to adjust their admission/financial aid standards to generate the requisite revenue required to operate.

Why shouldn’t I apply ED or EA?

Students who are not 110% prepared shouldn’t apply ED or EA, rushing into submission of your application is never advisable. Be sure to complete your application in full, take the time to workshop the perfect essay, obtain stellar recommendations, and brag in your activities section. Your application must be free of typos and spelling errors and represent you completely- this takes time and care. ED and EA are good options, but aren’t for everybody.


With more questions, contact Cogito World Education at info@cogitoworldeducation.org

Check out our University Scholarships Program for a look at how we get scholarships for our international students.



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