Early decision, like early action, is an accelerated college application process in which students typically must complete their applications in November. In most cases, students will then receive a decision from the college before the new year.
Early decision has a few obvious benefits:
- Frequently the acceptance rate is higher for early decision than it is for regular admissions.
- Students who aren't accepted early are still considered with the regular applicant pool.
- Students who are accepted early are done stressing about getting into college months before most applicants.
- Early decision is binding. If admitted, a student must attend the school or else lose a sizable enrollment deposit.
- A student may apply to only one college early (although additional applications for regular admissions are allowed).
- If accepted, a student must withdraw all other college applications.
- A student accepted early must decide to attend before receiving a financial aid package (colleges do allow students to break the early decision contract if the school fails to come up with enough aid to meet a student's demonstrated need, but realize that the student's need is calculated by the school and the FAFSA, not by what students think they can afford).
Also, be careful about the financial aid issue. A student who gets accepted through early decision has no way to compare financial aid offers. The money issue, in fact, is the main reason why a few schools like Harvard and University of Virginia dropped their early decision programs; they felt it gave wealthy students an unfair advantage.
The chart below shows a small sampling of early decision deadlines and response dates.
|Sample Early Decision Dates|
|College||Application Deadline||Receive a Decision by...|
|Alfred University||December 1||December 15|
|Boston University||November 1||December 15|
|Brandeis University||November 15||December 15|
|Emory University||Novemer 1||December 15|
|Harvey Mudd||November 15||December 15|
|University of Florida||October 1||December 1|
|Williams College||November 10||December 15|