Ask a College Advisor: Is Applying for Early Decision Worth It?

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Ask a College Advisor: Is Applying for Early Decision Worth It?
portrait of Lonnie Woods III
by Lonnie Woods III
Published on October 20, 2021

Question: Is applying for early decision worth it?

Answer: Applying for early decision can be worth it if you have done your research and landed on one school that you really want to attend. However, although fewer students tend to apply early compared to the number of applicants who submit a regular decision application, that does not necessarily mean that applying early will increase your chances of being accepted.

Early decision is a binding agreement stating that if accepted and offered enough financial aid, you agree to attend that school and withdraw all other applications. For those who are sure they want to attend a specific school, this option may reduce stress during college application season. There is also a non-binding application option — called early action — that has more flexibility.

The college application deadline for early decision is before the regular decision deadline. If you apply for early decision to your dream school, getting that application out of the way ahead of time allows you to focus on senior year and other elements of the college preparation process, such as applying to scholarships.

Early decision applicants hear back about their admissions decisions much earlier than regular decision applicants. Early decision applications are typically due in November with admissions decisions sent out as early as December, which is months earlier than regular decision.

Here is a list of some schools that offer early decision admissions:

There are some limitations to consider when applying early. The most obvious one is that you are legally bound to attend that school if selected. This can be challenging for students who are indecisive or want to weigh their options among all of the schools that they are accepted to.

Applying regular decision gives you the opportunity to research the pros and cons of multiple schools without the pressure of a binding agreement. If comparing financial aid packages from several colleges is important to you, recognize that you won't be able to do this if you apply for early decision and get accepted.

Summary

Applying early is a big commitment — you should feel very confident about your college choice. However, if you are 100% sure that you want to attend a specific school and you believe you have a strong application, applying for early decision can be a great choice for you.

If you do decide to submit an early decision application, you should still be prepared to submit early action or regular decision applications, too. If your early decision application isn't accepted, you don't want to find yourself behind in the college application process. Whatever application type you choose, make an informed decision and find a school that is a strong fit for you.

Check out more answers to college-related questions or submit your own question on our Ask a College Advisor page.


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What is early action vs. early decision? Learn about the benefits of applying to college early and how to decide between these two admission plans. Hear from one of our experts on whether or not college essays really matter when it comes to admissions. Hear from one of our experts on which factors are the most important for you to consider when choosing a college.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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