Difference Between Early Action and Early Decision

When applying to colleges, high school students have several options for submitting their applications. Two common options are Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED). These terms might sound similar, but they have important differences.

Here in this blog we will try to explain the difference between early action and early decision in simple language. Let’s explore what each one means and how they can impact your college application process.

Difference Between Early Action and Early Decision

What is Early Action (EA)?

Early Action (EA) is an application process that allows you to apply to colleges earlier than the regular deadlines. Typically, EA deadlines are in November, and you will receive a decision from the college by December or January. Here are some key features of Early Action:

  1. Non-Binding: The most important aspect of Early Action is that it is non-binding. This means that if you are accepted, you are not required to attend that college. You can still apply to other colleges and make your final decision by the regular decision deadline, usually around May 1st.
  2. Early Notification: With EA, you get an early response from the college. This can reduce some of the anxiety of waiting for admissions decisions. If you are accepted, it can also give you more time to consider your options and plan for the future.
  3. Flexibility: Since EA is non-binding, you can apply to multiple colleges through Early Action. This provides you the chance to compare financial aid offers and make a well-informed decision.

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What is Early Decision (ED)?

Early Decision (ED) is another early application process, but it is quite different from Early Action. Here are the key features of Early Decision:

  1. Binding Agreement: Early Decision is a binding agreement. This means that if you apply ED and are accepted, you must attend that college. You cannot apply ED to more than one college, and if you are accepted, you must withdraw all other college applications.
  2. Commitment: Applying ED shows that you are very committed to attending that particular college. Colleges appreciate this commitment, and it can sometimes give you a slight advantage in the admissions process.
  3. Early Notification: Like EA, ED allows you to receive an admissions decision earlier than regular decision applicants. If accepted, you will typically find out in December or January.

Pros and Cons of Early Action


  • More Time to Decide: Since EA is non-binding, you have more time to compare offers and make a decision.
  • Less Pressure: There is less pressure to commit to one college early in the process.
  • Multiple Applications: You can apply to multiple schools through EA, increasing your chances of acceptance.


  • Early Deadlines: You need to have your application materials ready earlier, which can be stressful.
  • Limited Financial Aid Information: While you get an early acceptance, you might not have all your financial aid information yet, making it harder to compare offers.

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Pros and Cons of Early Decision


  • Higher Acceptance Rates: Some colleges have higher acceptance rates for ED applicants because they know you are committed to attending.
  • Early Peace of Mind: If you are accepted ED, you can relax knowing where you will be going to college much earlier.


  • Binding Commitment: You must attend the college if accepted, limiting your ability to compare financial aid offers.
  • Limited Applications: You can only apply ED to one school, reducing your options.

How to Decide Between EA and ED

Deciding whether to apply Early Action or Early Decision depends on your personal situation and preferences. Here are some factors to consider:

How Sure Are You About Your First Choice?

  • If you are 100% sure that a particular college is your top choice and you would attend if accepted, ED might be a good option.
  • If you are not completely sure or want to keep your options open, EA is a safer choice.

Financial Considerations:

  • If financial aid is a very important factor in your decision, EA might be better because it lets you to compare offers from verious colleges.
  • ED does not allow for comparison, so if you are accepted, you must attend regardless of the financial aid package.

Application Readiness:

  • Do you have all your materials ready early? Both EA and ED require you to submit your application earlier than the regular deadlines.
  • If you are still working on your application or improving your test scores, you might want to wait for the regular decision.

Stress Levels:

  • Applying early can reduce stress if you receive an early acceptance.
  • However, meeting the early deadlines can be stressful, so make sure you are prepared.

Real-Life Scenarios

Let’s look at a couple of hypothetical scenarios to understand how EA and ED might play out.

Scenario 1: Emma

Emma has always dreamed of attending a specific Ivy League school. She has visited the campus, met with professors, and is certain this is the place for her. She also has a strong application ready by November. Emma decides to apply Early Decision to this school. In December, she receives an acceptance letter. Since she applied ED, she withdraws her other applications and happily prepares to attend her dream college.

Scenario 2: Jake

Jake likes several colleges and wants to keep his options open. He also needs to compare financial aid packages to make sure he can afford to attend. Jake applies Early Action to three schools. By January, he receives acceptance letters from two of them. He waits to hear back from the regular decision applications and compares all his offers, including financial aid packages, before making his final choice by May 1st.

Tips for Applying Early

  1. Start Early: Begin working on your applications during the summer before your senior year. This gives you plenty of time to gather materials, write essays, and request recommendation letters.
  2. Stay Organized: Keep track of deadlines and requirements for each school you are applying to. Use a calendar or planner to stay on top of everything.
  3. Seek Guidance: Talk to your school counselor, teachers, and family members for advice. They can help you decide which application option is best for you.
  4. Prepare Financially: If you are concerned about financial aid, make sure you understand each college’s financial aid policies. Some schools offer more generous packages than others.
  5. Be Honest with Yourself: Make sure you are genuinely excited about the school you are applying to, especially if you are considering ED. Remember, if you are accepted ED, you are committing to attend.

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Choosing between Early Action and Early Decision is a big decision in the college application process. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice depends on your personal situation, commitment level, and financial considerations. By understanding the differences and carefully considering your options, you can make the best decision for your future. Remember to start early, stay organized, and seek guidance to navigate this important step in your educational journey.

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