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How Regular Decision Differ from Early Action and Early Decision

5 Min Read
November 03, 2023

Embarking on your college application journey brings you face-to-face with important choices: Regular Decision, Early Action, and Early Decision. Each path has its unique set of rules and timelines that can significantly shape your college admission experience. In this post, we'll compare these options, helping you understand how they differ and what each means for your future. 

Timelines Explained: When to Send in Your Applications

Understanding these deadlines is crucial in planning your strategy and ensuring that your application stands the best chance of success. Let’s break down the timelines for Regular Decision, Early Action, and Early Decision.

Regular Decision (RD)

Regular Decision is the standard application process for most students. If you choose this path, keep in mind that deadlines typically fall in January or February. This allows you more time during your senior year to complete your application, improve your grades, and refine your essays. Admissions decisions for RD applicants are generally released in April or May. One of the key benefits of RD is that there's no commitment required upon acceptance, giving you the flexibility to compare offers from multiple colleges before making your final decision.

Early Action (EA)

Early Action is an option for students ready to submit their applications earlier in their senior year. The deadlines for EA applications usually fall in November or by November 15. By choosing EA, you’ll receive admissions decisions earlier, typically in December or January. This can relieve some of the stress of waiting and give you more time to plan for the future. Importantly, Early Action does not require a commitment upon acceptance. This means that if accepted, you can still apply to other schools (including multiple EA schools) and compare your options.

Early Decision (ED)

Early Decision is a binding application process, suited for students who are certain about their first-choice college. ED deadlines are typically in early November, often by November 1. Admissions decisions are then released in December, much earlier than RD. The binding nature of ED means that if you are accepted, you must attend that college and withdraw all other applications. This option shows a strong commitment to a specific school but requires careful consideration due to its binding commitment.

Weighing Your Options: Choosing the Right Application Plan

When you're mapping out your college application strategy, several key factors need to be taken into account. Reflecting on these points will help you identify the application plan that aligns best with your goals and situation.

Regular Decision: The Traditional Route

Benefits of Regular Decision

  • Opting for RD gives you more time to perfect your application and make solid financial plans.

  • This non-binding approach allows you to weigh and compare financial aid offers from different colleges, providing a broader perspective on your options.

  • You avoid the stress of binding agreements, granting you more freedom and flexibility until you make your final college decision.

Drawbacks of Regular Decision

  • The later timeline associated with RD means longer waiting times and potentially more stress as you await decisions.

  • With more applicants typically choosing this route, the competition can be tougher, possibly impacting your chances of acceptance.

  • There’s a risk of missing out on early scholarship opportunities that are often available to early applicants.

Deep Dive into Early Action

Benefits of Early Action

  • Applying EA allows you to receive your admissions decision sooner, which can be a huge relief and help in planning your next steps.

  • You'll be part of a smaller applicant pool, which might enhance your chances of being noticed and admitted.

  • Demonstrating interest in a specific college through early action can be advantageous, as it shows your commitment and enthusiasm for the institution.

Drawbacks of Early Action

  • EA lacks the "safety net" that comes with applying to multiple schools in RD rounds.

  • The process can be stressful, requiring you to complete your applications earlier in the academic year, often before Thanksgiving break.

Decoding Early Decision

Benefits of Early Decision

  • ED often comes with higher acceptance rates for those who meet the qualifications, making it a compelling choice if you have a dream school.

  • It signals a strong commitment to your chosen college, which can be a significant advantage in the admissions process.

  • Being accepted through ED eliminates the need to wait for other college decisions, easing anxiety and helping with early planning.

Drawbacks of Early Decision

  • The binding nature of ED can be limiting, as you are committed to attending if accepted, regardless of any changes in your circumstances or preferences.

  • This option restricts your ability to compare financial aid offers from different colleges, which can be a major drawback if cost is a significant factor in your decision.

  • ED isn't the best choice if you're still weighing multiple colleges as your top choices.

In conclusion, choosing the right college application plan is a personal journey that should align with your unique goals and preferences. Remember, it's perfectly fine to seek guidance from counselors, teachers, or family members during this process. You've worked hard to reach this point, so take a moment to celebrate your achievements as you step forward into this exciting phase of your life. If you need help choosing the right fit for you, we’re here to help! 

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