College Counseling & Planning      Orleans, MA. (774) 801-2449      Ashland, OR. (541) 488-0919
I really appreciate how much Jan helped me with my college applications. My entire family and I are grateful...more
--Aneesh Chandramouli, UC Berkeley, 2015

Read all testimonials...

Go Back to All Tips


DO YOU REALLY  WANT TO GO TO THAT COLLEGE?If a week before the ED, Early Decision, applications are due the answer to that question is I think so, then you had better think again. The ED application is binding and by submitting it you are telling the college that you will go there no matter what. If you are not totally committed to your ED college than perhaps a better way to go is EA, Early Action. This option allows you to apply early but not commit. Still another option that some schools offer is to wait until the second round of ED or EA application deadlines. This allows you a little more time to think about your choices.

Certainly there are advantages to applying early decision. It shows the school you are really interested and gets you into their early pool of applications. There is some statistical data that indicates that this is an advantage although most colleges and universities dispute this. If you are accepted ED, the whole college search process is over and you can relax a little. However, if you have any doubts about whether you have made the right choice you can do nothing about it if you are accepted. Keep in mind that applying ED locks you into a college more than ten months before you set foot on the campus. Ideas, goals and educational aspirations have been known to change during the senior year. In addition studies have shown that if you are deferred in ED your chances of getting in regular decision are no greater. In other words, you would have a better chance in the regular pool if you never applied ED. Actually, if your grades are improving your senior year, you are better off sending a transcript that includes senior year As than one ending with junior year Bs. An added problem is if you need to compare financial aid packages. This is not possible with ED because you will get that package when you get accepted in late December.

EA, Early Action, is a better way to go when you can. It is not binding and gives you until May 1st to respond. It also allows you to compare financial aid packages from all the colleges to which you applied. Unfortunately not many schools offer EA. This situation promises to improve, but at this point far more schools offer ED than EA. In addition there is a new wrinkle to complicate the process. Who stays up nights thinking up these things? There is an increase in the number of schools that have restrictions in their EA policies. These schools are saying that if you apply EA to their college you cannot apply ED to another. Some even say that you cannot apply EA to another college. In other words they are single action early action. Got that? And in case you are wondering who would know, keep in mind that admission officers belong to an exclusive club in which they know each other and often compare notes.

After all is said and done, I would venture to guess that in your heart of hearts many of you want to apply ED or EA because you think that you have a better chance of acceptance and you just want to get the whole process over so you can get on with your life. Is this wrong thinking? No, but it is short sighted and may come back to bite you.
So what is the answer? My advice is dont get caught up trying to outsmart the admission people they have been at it a lot longer than you have. Apply Early Decision or Early Action to a school because after thoroughly researching your selected schools, University X or Y College is the only place you think that you can find happiness. Then, of course there is the question, is there only one college/university out of 3,000+ where you can be happy?

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants