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

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by Lonnie Woods III

Updated February 28, 2022

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

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.

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.


DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.


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