Facts About Applying Early Decision and Early Action

Find the right college for you.

About 450 colleges offer early admission plans. Under these plans, students can apply to colleges early─well before the regular deadline─and get a decision.

Some students who apply under these plans have a better chance of getting in than they would through the regular admission process. Colleges can benefit from the plans as well because they get students who really want to attend that college to commit early.

How to Decide If Applying Early Is Right for You

Applying early can be a good idea if you’re sure about which college you want to attend. That means you’ve researched its programs and, if possible, visited its campus.

But think twice about applying early if:

  • You want to compare admission and financial aid offers from several colleges.
  • You’d benefit from having another year of high school work to show colleges.
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Early Admission Options

There are three main types of early admission plans. All three plans usually require you to apply in October or November. All the plans give you an early decision. You’ll know if you’ve been accepted in December or January.

Other parts of the plans vary by college, so talk with a counselor or teacher ahead of time to ensure you understand the rules. Here are some details about each option.

Early Decision Plans:

  • You can apply early decision to only 1 college.
  • If the college accepts you and offers enough financial aid, you must go to that college. That’s why these plans are referred to as “binding.”
  • Some colleges have 2 early deadlines, called early decision deadline I and early decision deadline II. They both work the same way, but the second deadline gives you more time to decide to apply early.
  • Although you may apply to additional colleges through the regular admission process, you must withdraw all other applications if this college accepts you.

Early Action Plans:

  • You can apply early action to multiple colleges.
  • If you're accepted, you can say “yes” right away or wait until spring to decide.
  • You can also decline the offer.


Can I apply to multiple schools with early action?

Yes. Unlike early decision, early action isn’t a binding offer, meaning you can apply to multiple schools. You have the option to submit several applications under early action. Even with early action decisions, you don’t have to decide immediately. Usually, you have until May 1 to tell the school whether you plan to enroll, which allows you time to compare other colleges' financial aid offers.

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Can I apply again after early action?

No, not if the school outright rejects your application. You’d have to start the application over at a later time. But if the school still considers you a potential candidate, you’d be deemed a deferred candidate. If you’re deferred, you don’t have to reapply for early action.

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Can I apply for early decision to multiple schools?

Unlike early action, you’re not allowed to apply to multiple schools for early decision. When you send in your application, you must sign a contract that commits you to enroll at that college upon acceptance. If you’ve submitted other applications for early action or regular admission, you’ll have to withdraw them at this point. For that reason, you always want to ensure that your early decision school is your true first choice.

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Do private institutions offer early action plans?

Many private institutions offer early action. Talk to your school counselor to see whether there are restrictions on early action at your selected school.

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What’s a deferred admission?

Applying early action has three possibles outcomes: acceptance, denial, or deferred admission. The admissions office may defer your application if you’re not a candidate for early action. In that case, the admissions panel will reevaluate your application with the regular decision applicants. If you’re a deferred early action, you don’t have to reapply to the school. The admissions office may review the application during the regular admission process.

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Should I remain in contact with the admissions office?

Although you may want to wait to hear from the admissions office regarding their decision, stay connected with them. Consider sending an update letter to outline your recent accomplishments. In many ways, doing that can help sway their decision to rule in your favor. However, be careful with this approach. You never want to inconvenience the admissions office with too many updates because they might not see you as a fit candidate for the school.

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What should I do to prepare for admission after a denial?

Although receiving an early action denial can be a disappointment, there’s a positive aspect. You’ll have extra time that you can use to your advantage. Take this time to position yourself for spring admission. You can learn from your early action experience and use this knowledge when you apply to other schools that pique your interest.

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