What Is Early Admission for Colleges?

What is Early Decision? What is Early Action? Everything you must know about both.

Shawna Newman

September 01, 2023

What Is Early Admission for Colleges?
October and November are chock full of early admissions deadlines.
If you’re a high school student on the college-bound track, you have likely heard of Early Admissions deadlines. These typically occur in October and November.

What Is Early Admission?

Most colleges and universities have two types of early college admissions: early decision and early action. These types of admission decisions are a way to let your dream college(s) know they’re your number one choice, and they also might give you an edge in getting into the school if you’re a borderline admit. According to Grown and Flown, "...many institutions have a significantly higher admit rate during this round [early admissions] than during the regular decision round." Additionally, U.S. News reports that regular-decision admissions is “quickly becoming the road less traveled,” and, “According to the College Board, some 450 colleges have one or both of these [early admissions] plans.”
So why would you choose to submit your college application early? What’s early admission vs early decision? How is early admission different from regular admission? Get your early admissions questions answered below.

What is Early Decision?

Early Decision is a binding agreement with a college that you will attend if your application is accepted for admission. This should be reserved for those students who are 100% committed to attend a specific school.
While you can apply to other colleges, you cannot commit to them over your Early Decision school. Once you’ve been admitted, you must withdraw applications from any other colleges.

When Early Decision May Be a Good Idea

If you have no doubt you want to go to a particular college.

Naturally, college admissions counselors enjoy early decision students. It takes a lot of the back and forth out of their process. You’re a shoo-in, and in turn, it doesn't take as much effort to sell their college.

Your student profile is like other students who go to that university.

Basically, you know what you’re going to get. It’s a done deal for you—you’re only waiting on that college acceptance letter before you display your school pennant.

Reasons to Reconsider an Early Decision Application

If you’re concerned about the financial aid package you’ll get from this university.

You may want to hit “pause” if you’re concerned about the financial aid package you’ll get from this university. Although some college admission counselors can estimate the financial aid package you may get before you apply, it’s only an estimate.

You’re curious about a few other schools.

You’re locked in and don’t have the option to change your mind with this path. If you have even thought about attending another college, you should reconsider the early decision application route.

A final decision will need to be made soon.

You’ll have less time to explore your higher education options.

You could use the second semester to boost your final GPA.

If your grades could use some work or you know you can increase your GPA by the end of the fall semester of senior year, you may want to hold off. Remember, some schools provide merit scholarships based upon your GPA/academic standing.

What is Early Action?

Similar to Early Decision, you’re showing a strong interest in your top pick college. You’d apply early fall and usually get a decision from the university mid-December. Here is what makes Early Action different from early decision: • You’re not contracted to attend if admitted. • You can apply Early Action to other schools. • If accepted, you may choose to accept the offer immediately, wait to consider other offers of admission, and make your final decision on National College Decision Day (May 1).

When Early Action May Be a Good Choice

You may enhance your acceptance odds.

Since you’ve acted early, the university knows they’re a top-choice college for you. Plus, they are just beginning to fill their class, and they may be more lenient with their admits at this point.

You match the student criteria standards of current students attending that university.

With Early Action, you may be just the type of the student that university admits -- or borderline. Regardless, you know that you’ll preform well as an “XYZ” university student.

You can compare financial aid packages.

You’ll have the ability to compare financial aid packages. This can help you find a more affordable college, and the best financial fit for you.

You’d prefer to avoid the common, acceptance stress in the last few months of your senior year.

Your senior year is a big deal. There’s Prom, senior photos, senior skip day, and so many other activities you’d like to truly appreciate. Plus, you know this is THE school you’ll go to if the financial aid package works for you.

Reasons to Reconsider an Early Action Application

There are not too many reasons to reconsider an Early Action application, if this is the route you’d like to take. Here are some things to think about when applying Early Action: Your application may showcase as the best of the batch. In most cases, students applying for Early Admission are some of the very brightest. Consider this as you apply for Early Action. You’ll likely have multiple application fees to pay for. Most colleges require an application fee, and you’re probably planning on applying to more than one university for Early Action. Take this into account as you begin to submit your applications.

Keep Applying for Scholarships

If you do decide to proceed as an Early Admissions applicant, don’t forget to keep applying for scholarships. Set up a free Fastweb profile to be matched to scholarships that fit you AND the college you’ve decided to attend.

Fastweb makes finding scholarships a breeze.

Become a member and gain exclusive access to our database of over 1.5 million scholarships.

By clicking, I agree to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.