What are the Pros and Cons of Early Decision?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Deciding on a college is problematic in and on itself. Imagine having to decide early and inform your college, get a decision, and settle on one specific route for the next couple of years. While that sounds a little crazy for some people, multiple people feel this gives you some security blanket to fall on.

Now, you don’t even have to take an early decision for college, but some students do it anyway. However, others are indecisive about where they want to be. Hence, they decide to wait a while before submitting any applications.

Below, you’ll earn all the vital information necessary to understand early decisions and actions and the benefits and drawbacks of doing it.

What Does Early Decision Mean When Applying to College?What Does Early Decision Mean When Applying to College?

Early decision, also known as ED, is when you make your final decision about the college you will be attending. It’s not only a non-tangible decision, but documents and proof show that you’ve decided. Hence, the college itself would be aware of your decision.

Numerous students confuse the terms early decision and early action. While they’re often intertwined, early action is simply you taking action by sending in your application and receiving an early response. You won’t have to commit to the college or reply until the regular reply date is May 1st.

Now, keep in mind that an early decision is a binding agreement. You cannot take it back once you send in the earlier application reply that you’ve accepted. You’ll have to attend that college once fall rolls around.

However, early action is a non-binding agreement. You get the early acceptance letter from the college, but you’ll have ample time to reply.

There are around 450 colleges with definitive early decision plans, some with only early action, and some with both. However, things could get a little messy if your college allows you to only apply early to that one specific college. Some have that restriction, which is called single-choice early action.

This is also equivalent to the term restrictive early action, in which you are allowed to only apply early to your single-choice EA institution. There are exceptions, but you would have to settle on one university or college. This includes Yale, Princeton, Harvard University, Boston University, Notre Dame, and Georgetown University.

What is the Point of Applying Early Decision?

What is the Point of Applying Early Decision?

While you might be hesitant about applying early, it’s always a great idea to do so. Even if you end up not accepting any of the acceptance letters, you’ll at least have a higher chance of your academic life.

Well, does early action increase chances? The short answer is yes, it does. Early action is one of the strongest academic cards you can possess as a high school graduate. Imagine receiving early acceptance from a top college or university?

That will generally make things more competitive between the various colleges you applied to if you inform them. Nothing else will increase your admission chances like this would.

A few times before, it has even been mentioned that an early decision is worth 100 points on the SATs. That’s because even influential universities and colleges often compete against one another to enroll the brightest students out there.

However, we recommend applying as early as possible if you’re capable of doing so. Is early action binding? No, it is not. The only binding element here is the earlier decision. That’s because you officially inform the college of your decision.

Early admission is that if you look at the statistics from top universities and colleges, you generally see a higher acceptance rate in that pool. That makes people assume that you have higher chances to apply earlier, which is incredibly bogus.

The reason colleges accept more students during that period is because these students are often more qualified. The early admissions are the confident students, the high-achievers, and the goal-oriented people. You can see that once you reflect upon these students’ SAT scores and GPAs.

Take Dartmouth, for example. For the academic year of 2020-2021, the acceptance rate of early applicants was a stunning 21%. That’s incredibly high compared to the 4.5% acceptance rate of the standard application pool of that same year.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying Early Decision?

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying Early Decision?

First of all, before extensively going through the different advantages and disadvantages of applying early, you must be sure about your decision. Making an early decision is one of the most defining moments in your academic career in high school and has the potential to change the course of everything.

You should be especially sure of your decision if you’re applying to a top university, as many of them have REA systems, the Restricted Early Action system. Hence, you would only be able to apply to that one specific university initially (in the early rounds).

Here is a list of early decision pros and cons:

Pros of Early Decision

The number one benefit is the relaxed and proud feeling you get once you get accepted. You’ll honestly feel like you’re on top of the world. However, the list is quite extensive, and here are a few advantages that we like:

  • Eliminate the stress of choosing a university or college later on.
  • Set your mind on specific goals and achieve them instead of being hesitant about the right decision.
  • It saves you both the time and the money, as you won’t have to spend a fortune applying to multiple colleges.
  • We know we all need it to have spare time to relax and have fun during summers before heading off to college.
  • If you do not get an acceptance letter, have the time and ability to reevaluate your choices and apply to other places.
  • Add it to your resume or CV, as that’s quite an impressive achievement.
  • Being portrayed as confident, capable, and high-achieving to the university and any employers in the future.
  • Have excess time to think about expenses during your university life, including housing, preparation, and university life.

Cons of Early Decision

The downside to early action is very similar to ED. Hence, they also apply to the following list of drawbacks:

  • Slacking off is a huge problem that some early-admitted people feel. Once you get accepted into your dream university, people often start not caring as much about their senior year. However, consider that universities have the right to withdraw early applications if your grades start falling.
  • The time crunch is a nuisance, as you would often only have two weeks between receiving an early decision acceptance letter and the deadline to apply to other colleges. Hence, we advise you to prepare a few applications to different places beforehand as your backup.
  • You will have to apply with your current GPA and SAT scores, so it could be a losing point if you believe you will do better in the upcoming semester.
  • As other colleges and universities offer financial aid, residence aid, or lower cost overall, you might feel that it’s unfair to apply only to one or a few colleges when you cannot receive news from others.

How to Choose a College for Early Decision?

How to Choose a College for Early Decision?

As some of the top-ranked colleges and universities do not allow you to apply to multiple places, you have to be confident about your decision. There are a few things we recommend you go through and address before you decide on one specific university. Here is what you do:

Research Thoroughly

Do exhaustive research that leaves you dreaming about the university and all the details you have learned. Find out what the accommodation looks like, the culture, and the teaching style. You should not only focus on the curriculum and syllabus, but you should target other areas too.

Settle on a Major

It’s absurd to choose a college without knowing what your major is. You should not choose the college if you’re not sure that they have an incredible program for the major you love. Always aim for the absolute best if you’re making a definitive decision.

Calculate Your Chances

Do you think you have good chances at the college? Research a little more through online resources and the college’s website to find out their average acceptance rate. Also, find out if they want specific test results.

Research the Extracurriculars

College life should not only be academic. Look for your hobbies. Find out what the clubs are, what activities they have, what internship opportunities they offer, and the sports in theirs.

Other Applicants from Same High School

During the evaluation, the same person is responsible for many applicants from the same region. Hence, find out if others are applying early and figure out who has the higher chance of getting in. It’s sporadic for universities to accept multiple people from the same background.

Wrapping Things Up: What are the Pros and Cons of Early Decision?

Everything you’ll need to make your decision is discussed above. However, we’ll leave you with one last note; never apply early on if you’re not 100% sure, as it’s a binding decision that will change the course of your academic career.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More