One of the biggest challenges faced by a college-bound student is to decide on the admission plan. Most students apply Regular Decision (RD) to the colleges on their list because they do not know much about other admission plans offered to them. Knowing the meaning and repercussions of each plan not only gives the student a head start in the game but also lets the families know what they are getting into well in advance of admission decisions – well before it is too late to walk out.
As the name suggests, applying Regular Decision (RD) means that the student will submit each application around early January (deadlines vary by school) and will hear back in April. The early application plans such as Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA), however, require the student to submit their applications by November 1st (deadlines vary by school) and offer them the advantage of getting their admission decision by mid-December, which might come as a huge relief for many students and families since they will not have to worry about waiting until spring. As charming as this sounds, how does a student know if s/he should apply RD, ED, or EA?
The only difference between Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) is that the former is legally binding, which also makes it a disadvantage for a student to apply ED. Parents must sign a binding contract prior to submitting an ED application, which means that the student will have no choice but to commit to that one college if admitted. S/he has to withdraw all other applications as soon as s/he’s admitted to a college under the ED admission plan. This would deprive her/him of the freedom to evaluate and compare the financial aid packages that the other schools might offer. However, in the case of an EA, the student can still apply to other schools, wait for all the results to arrive in spring, and compare financial aid packages, which would help her/him make the best decision as to which school s/he will decide to attend.
Applying ED certainly has its advantages. The acceptance rate for the ED pool, even for the big guys, is slightly higher than it is for the regular pool because there are fewer ED applicants (see chart below.) This gives an ED student more competitive advantage than a RD student. As charming as this sounds, I would only advise a student to apply ED if s/he meets all of the following criteria:
- Has desirable standardized test scores (such as the SAT/ACT, SAT Subject Tests, TOEFL, etc…) that will place her/him at the top 25% of her/his dream school
- Has a solid GPA
- Is able to pay for college in full (in case s/he does not receive any financial aid and/or scholarships)
- Has a dream college which s/he has lower chances of admission otherwise
Source: Ivy Coach
Overall, my best advice would be to apply EA to the colleges that offer it. Keep in mind that many prestigious colleges like the Ivies and the Elites do not offer EA admission plans if they offer ED plans. In most cases, it is one or the other. Applying EA will not affect your future college decision; however, you must really think twice before submitting that ED application. If you are admitted to your ED school, there is no turning back! Come fall, you are going to that school no matter what! If you would like to learn more about applying ED, I highly recommend that you read “Applying Early Decision: 10 Frequently Asked Questions” written by U.S. News and World Report.
Choosing the right admission plan depends on the student’s academic, financial, and social profile. At EdMission Possible, we work with each student and craft a customized application plan to make an informed decision regarding whether applying Regular Decision (RD), Early Decision (ED), or Early Action (EA) will suit each student’s needs the best! Call us today to find out how we can help you craft your admission plan!
Burcak Deniz Cakir
Independent Educational Consultant, Founder, and President | EdMission Possible
Burcak Deniz Cakir has a B.A. in Foreign Language Education, an M.A. in English Language Teaching, and an M.B.A., all of which have laid the solid foundation for her professional experiences as an educator. She has completed the College Counseling Program at UCLA, which is known to be the most prestigious certificate program in the profession. She has previously taught English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) in Turkey and in the U.S. at Virginia Tech, Harcum College, Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick Campuses), and Pace University. Having taught EFL/ESL at the college level for over 20 years, Burcak can communicate effectively with college-age students from different countries. She is bilingual in Turkish and English. Her extensive experience with international students from many countries including but not limited to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and China has given her the opportunity to understand their unique problems that domestic students may not be facing throughout the college admissions process, such as but not limited to extra testing requirements (TOEFL, IELTS), the translation of high school transcripts and recommendation letters, different financial forms and statements required, visa issues, being homesick, culture shock, etc.
Burcak is an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a Voting Member of the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC). She currently lives in Edison, New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her four-legged son. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her family, reading (lots!) about college admissions and college essays, watching her favorite movies, getting lost in design magazines, and decorating her house.