Should You Apply Early Or Regular Decision? Here’s How To Decide

May 17, 2016
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Application season is around the corner! It’s an exciting time for students to start dreaming about where they want to spend their college years, but it’s also a time full of uncertainty and questions. You may even be one of those students yourself! Congratulations on your decision to apply to college in the fall – you have some very fun and exciting years ahead of you. Just for that, here’s a free personalized college profile evaluation to get you started!

As you set out on your college application journey, there are three major application types to be mindful of: Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Decision. It can seem difficult and daunting to navigate your application strategy, but we are here to break down your options to help you decide which application deadlines are right for you.

1. Early Decision: 

Applying Early Decision is best for students who know with certainty which college they want to attend. With Early Decision deadlines:

  • Application deadlines are typically in November.
  • You can apply to just one college under this application deadline.
  • Your application is binding. This means, if you are admitted (and the school offers you enough financial aid), you must enroll.
  • You can still apply to other colleges through Early Action and Regular Decision deadlines, but you must withdraw those applications if you are admitted by your top choice school.
  • You will receive an admission decision from the school far before the usual notification deadline (usually you’ll hear back in December).

Early Decision deadlines are best for students who have researched colleges extensively and are absolutely sure that the college they are applying to under Early Decision is their first choice. It is also best for students who may not need to compare multiple financial aid offers, because if you are admitted, you will enroll and will not get to see financial aid offers from any other schools.

2. Early Action

Applying Early Action is similar to Early Decision, but this application deadline is not binding. With Early Action 

  • Application deadlines are typically in November and December.
  • You will receive an admission decision earlier than the usual notification deadline (usually you’ll hear back in January or February).
  • You can consider your acceptance offer, as you do not need to commit right away upon being admitted.
  • You may still apply to other schools under Regular Decision deadlines and do not need to withdraw your applications if you are admitted.
  • You must give the college a decision on whether or not you will enroll no later than the May 1 deadline.

Early Action deadlines are best for students who have clearly researched their top schools and want to indicate to admissions committees that they are their top choice. It is also best for students who may struggle with the anxiety/stress of waiting until March to learn about their options. Applying under early application deadlines means that you will have less time to complete your applications, so it is imperative for students to begin applications early if they choose to apply Early Action (or Early Decision!) 

3. Regular Decision

This application deadline is named quite appropriately – it’s just the regular application and decision process! With Regular Decision deadlines:

  • You will have the most amount of time to complete your applications. Application deadlines are typically in January and February.
  • You will receive an admission decision around March or early April.
  • You will be able to compare multiple financial aid offers.
  • You must make your final college choice by May 1.

Regular Decision deadlines are best for students who may not have completed their college research by the time applications are released and will need the time to complete all of their applications. It is also best for students who will need to compare multiple financial aid offers.

There it is, a breakdown of your college application options! Remember that not every school will have Early Decision or Early Action options, and every school will have specific dates and requirements for their application process. The best way to set yourself up for success is to start early. Best of luck, and remember to have some fun along the way!

If you are trying to decide which application type is best for you or are looking for guidance about how to approach the college application process, consider speaking for free with a college admissions consultant. Veritas Prep offers applicants a free, personalized college profile evaluation giving you tailored advice to help dramatically improve your chances of admissions success. Sign-up now!

About The Author

Veritas Prep, Guest Blogger
Veritas Prep, Guest Blogger

Veritas Prep is the largest privately-owned provider of test prep and admissions consulting services in the world, offering SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE test preparation courses and private tutoring. The company also offers college and MBA admissions consulting to help students gain admissions to the world’s best colleges, universities, and graduate schools. Veritas Prep’s SAT and ACT courses are delivered in-person and live online and feature the only zero risk, money back guarantee in the industry.

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Brown ‘20

Accepted to Brown, Cornell, CMU, Wesleyan, William & Mary, Case, Villanova, Binghamton, RPI, WPI

Hi! I'm a sophomore at Brown University studying Biochemistry and English. I love writing, baking, hiking, and music.
UMD ‘20

Accepted to UMD, JHU, Duke, Case, Swarthmore, Penn State

I am a recent high school grad about to enter my first year of college at the University of Maryland: College Park with a full Banneker/Key scholarship.
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Accepted to Rochester, Rutgers, Fordham, College of NJ, Drexel

Hey! I'm a freshman at University of Rochester Class of 2020 interested in double majoring in Biology and Spanish, eventually applying to med school. I'm passionate about studying science, doing research and learning new languages.
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Accepted to Rice, Rochester, Case, Emory, Hamilton, Pitt, Union, Miami

Experience applying as daughter of first generation US immigrants. Aspiring physician interested in double majoring in Acting and Cognitive Science.

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