When applying to colleges, terms like Early Decision, Regular Decision are common and can be easily confused. While they are similar in many ways, there are some unique terms & conditions.
Early Decision (ED): Applying ED is like asking someone to marry you. If they say yes, you are bound to them by your commitment. In the same way, applying ED to a college is telling the college, “You are my first choice, I would attend your college above anywhere else and hence I am choosing to apply ED to you to prove that”. How does ED prove your commitment? It does because you can only apply ED to one college. If that college accepts your application and offers you admission, you will HAVE TO attend that college. This is what is referred to as an ED-bind– you are willing to be bound to attending that college by signing the ED contract. Only if you are admitted, you must honour the contract, if you are rejected, wait listed or deferred, you are released of the bind entirely. You should resort to an ED when aspecific college jumps out to you as an option that suits all your needs and wants from college. The only reason you can come out of an ED contract is if your need for financial aid is not met by the college.
Within the ED realm, there can be some colleges that offer one or more ED options.
- ED1: ED1 refers to the first round of ED applications with a deadline close to November 1.Decisions are typically released by mid-December for ED1 candidates.
- ED2: Some colleges like NYU offer a second round of ED applications. The same rules of ED apply here too; the only difference is that the application deadline is closer to end December with decisions being released within the first two weeks of February. A second round ED is a good option for students who are not admitted into their first choice ED or are late with their application process, and would like to attend a college that offers this option. Important to note here is that not all colleges offer this option.
Early Action (EA): Early Action is a non-binding early round of applications. It is similar to an ED, but without the binding condition that you are obligated to attend if you get admitted. Many schools have both ED and EA. EA indicates to the school that you are interested in attending that if you receive an offer earlier, it will help you narrow down your options. Most schools allow you to apply Early Action to multiple colleges and universities. You aren’t required to notify the school of your decision to attend until May 1, the same “college deadline day” as Regular Decision.
However, there are some colleges that offer early action plans with some restrictions:
- Restrictive Early Action(REA): is a form of Early Action where the college asks you NOT to apply to any other college under their ED application system. In most cases you can still apply Early Action to other colleges since that would not be binding. Colleges that offer this option include University of Notre Dame.
- Single Choice Early Action (SCEA): is an even more restrictive form of REA where the colleges that practice this option also prohibit you from applying to other private colleges under their Early Action plans. Just like in REA, you cannot apply to any College (Private or Public) under their ED plan anyways. However, you can apply to public universities under any of their non-binding application systems. Examples of colleges that practice this are Stanford, Yale, and Harvard.
Under both REA and SCEA, you can still apply to another college’s ED2 plan since that deadline would be after your decision for these are out.Another important thing to remember is that applying REA or SCEA does not stop you from applying regular decision or rolling to other colleges.Like EA applicants, REA/Single Choice applicants have until May 1 to make their decision.
Rolling Admissions: Some schools have rolling admissions, which means that applications are evaluated and decided as they are received in full with all required documents. These schools don’t have a set deadline, although you will need to apply several weeks before the start of the term you’re interested in attending.
Additionally, applications are only accepted until all spots are filled, so it’s better to apply early rather than late. You can apply to as many rolling admissions schools as you’d like, even if you’ve applied Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, or Early Decision to other schools.
Regular decision: Regular Decision deadlines are generally between January 1 and March 1 depending on the school. Applicants are notified of the admissions team’s decision by April 1, and they must respond signifying that they will or will not attend by May 1.Regular Decision as the name suggests is not an early round application, and you’ll be compared to a larger pool of applicants. It is not binding, and you can apply Regular Decision to as many schools as you would like.
Despite all these explanations, it can still be confusing with so many terms floating around. Please feel free to reach out and speak to one of our college coaches to help you navigate the US College Application process.
(Contributed by Devanshi Dabriwal)