Acronyms, numbers and codes, oh my! There is so much high school students have to understand during their college search and application process.
Because the admission process differs from school to school, even deciding when to apply to college becomes a challenge. You’ve heard about early decision admission and early action admission, but what is the difference? Is there an advantage of applying to schools early? Again, because every school is different, it is important to ask each college you are considering these questions!
Early decision admission is a binding commitment. This means that if you are accepted, you are committing to that school and agree to withdraw all other college applications. If you apply to a college through early decision, you may only apply to other schools under regular admission. If you apply for early decision, be 100 percent ready to attend that school regardless of how much (or how little) financial aid you are offered.
Early action admission is non-binding. You still receive advance notification of your admission to that school, but you have until the national reply date, May 1, to make a final attendance decision. With early action admission, you may apply to other schools that offer early admission programs.
So, how early is early? This also varies from school to school. Some early decision or early action application deadlines are in November; others may be as soon as October or as late as December. Students who apply through early admission are typically notified of the admissions decision in December or January. Check with the individual school to find out their specific deadlines and policies.
Are there advantages to applying early? Aside from receiving your admission notification from the school early, some would say no.
However, you may find that you’re interested in a college that offers unique programs and policies if you apply early. Statistics have shown that there is a higher percentage of acceptance with early admission programs compared to regular admissions.
The disadvantage is that early decision also does not allow you the opportunity to compare financial aid packages between schools.
Some colleges and universities may offer both early decision and early action admission, while others may only offer one or the other or no early admission program at all.
Do your research, ask questions and read the fine print before applying early!
Nicole Morris is assistant director of admission at Valparaiso University (valpo.edu).