What is Early Decision 1? College Application FAQ

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


Have you been considering applying to college early? As the saying goes: “the early bird gets the worm.” While that’s true, even for this situation, using early to any college or university is not as straightforward as you might think it is. Numerous elements come into play.

You first must understand that numerous different terms signify different things. These include Early Decision (ED) 1 and 2, Early Action (EA), Restricted Early Action, and Regular Decision (RD). Depending on your goal and how determined you are, you’ll take a different route and follow through with one or two of those points.

However, whether it’s 1 or 2, an early decision consistently indicates that you’ll be bound to one specific university or college. When you make a final decision, you often cannot take it back unless an exception applies to you. However, this article will break down the different types of early decisions and which path might be right for you.

What is Early Decision 1 (ED 1)?What is Early Decision 1 (ED 1)?

Early decision 1 is a binding program. Once you choose to submit through the early decision one program of a college or university, you’re tied to that specific college if you get accepted. The same thing applies to early decision 2.

But, what is early decision one then? ED 1 requires you to apply to the college way earlier than when regular submissions open up. Hence, you’ll have to use ED 1 in October or November. Then, around the middle of December, you’ll receive the application result.

If you get accepted into this university or college, you’re obliged to go. You often have to sign an official document while submitting your applications, which binds you for good to the college.

However, there is a vital piece of information you should note. You must understand the difference between early decision vs. early action. Below are the main differences between EA and ED:

Early Action

  • Non-binding program
  • You have time to reply to the college
  • You can apply to multiple colleges with EA at once
  • You have the time to compare financial support from the colleges once accepted

Early Decision

  • Binding program
  • You’re automatically into the college if accepted
  • You can apply to only one college with ED
  • You cannot compare your financial support from different colleges as you’re required to attend the ED college once accepted

What Schools Offer Early Decision 1?

What Schools Offer Early Decision 1?

Several different colleges and universities have both the ED 1 and the ED 2 programs. That gives you more of a margin to decide and gives you more flexibility, which we will discuss later in the article.

However, let’s stick to ED 1 first. Early decision one deadline is usually around the beginning of November (1st of November). However, keep in mind that some colleges have their deadline as early as the middle of October, and that’s usually the case for very competitive and Ivy League colleges.

You will also receive an admission decision somewhere around the middle of December, usually on the 15th of December. You must obtain the college’s decision right before the regular application deadline, so you’ll have ample time to submit to other colleges if you have not been accepted.

List of universities and colleges that offer ED1 programs:

  • Brown
  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Harvard
  • Princeton
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale

Remember that this is not a complete list of colleges and universities. Many of them offer a various mix of ED 1, ED 2, and EA.

Once you do receive your reply to your early decision college, you will either be deferred, rejected, or accepted. If you’ve taken to any ED 1 or ED 2 college, you must attend that college.

However, if you get rejected, you’re free to submit other applications to different colleges. However, keep in mind that the deadline for ED 1 has already passed at that point. But on the other hand, you’ll still have the opportunity to apply through ED 2 or regular decision programs.

What's the Difference Between ED 1 vs. ED 2?

What’s the Difference Between ED 1 vs. ED 2?

As fundamental concepts, early decisions 1 and 2 are incredibly similar programs. They both provide you with an early portal to admissions, but you have to decide on one particular university or college when you do so. You will also receive early news of your application status, much earlier than you would receive in regular decisions.

They are both binding programs; you will have to attend that college if you get accepted. You will typically have to sign some paperwork that will bind you. This is a huge commitment, and not one average student is willing to take it.

The benefit here is that some programs allow you to apply to both ED 1 and ED 2, but obviously to different schools. Moreover, most ED programs will still allow you to submit applications through EA programs. However, if you get accepted into your ED college, you’ll most likely have to withdraw from other applications.

The significant difference between early decisions 1 and 2 is the timeline. For ED 1, you will be obliged to submit your application earlier, and you will also receive the result of your application earlier. Remember that you will have to apply with your junior year transcript for ED 1, while you can use it with your senior fall semester transcript for ED 2.

If the college defers you for whatever reason, your obligation is immediately released. You won’t commit anymore, and you’re free to apply through other programs to various colleges.

The deadline for ED 1 is often around the middle of November, somewhere between the 1st and 15th, depending on the college. Youll get a notified status the month after that. The deadline for early decision 2 is more often than not in January. Hence, you’ll receive the results in February.

Learn everything you need to know about the difference between ED 1 and ED 2 here.

Is Early Decision Really Worth It?

Is Early Decision Really Worth It?

One of the significant advantages of ED, whether it’s ED 1 or ED 2, is that they have higher acceptance rates overall. That turns out to be very accurate. You’ll have a higher chance of applying through ED 1 but still, have high options through ED 2.

The reason is not that colleges are more lenient towards applicants. It turns out that the pool of applicants that go through ED are usually high-achievers and ones confident about their academic life. That includes extracurriculars, high GPAs, and a finalized decision about their major.

Right now, over 400 colleges around the USA offer ED programs. Now, applying early is incredibly tempting, but it might not be the right fit for you. It is such a binding commitment; hence, it probably is not the path for you if you’re not 100% of your decision.

The reason students feel compelled to submit their applications through ED is mainly for that sigh of relief; you’ll know where you’re going, and you’ll have ample time to prepare and relax. If you’re confident about your application, college of choice, and major, you’re good to go!

However, most students are not. Before 18, most students are confused about their career life and feel the need to explore themselves and the world before committing to academic life. That is incredibly logical. However, if that’s your thought process, the safe option is to submit your application through regular decisions.

5 Reasons Why Early Decision is Worth It

  • Increased chances of admission: you’ll have a smaller pool of students to compete with. You’ll also demonstrate strength, interest, and confidence in your college of choice.
  • Get peace of mind: it’s much easier on both your mind and academic life to find out where you’re going to go.
  • Free time: have you ever witnessed students waiting through the summer months for their application status? Well, you can avoid all that hassle.
  • Preparation time: you’ll be able to plan financially, mentally, and academically. You’ll have the chance to visit the campus and meet people beforehand.
  • Good on the resume: let’s be honest, ED-approved students are pretty impressive. That will always look good on your resume or CV.

5 Reasons Why Early Decision is NOT Worth It

  • Unsatisfactory grades: if you’re not pleased with your results, then take a breather and submit later on once you raise your grades that semester.
  • Not enough research: if you don’t feel incredibly confident about your knowledge about the university, do not apply. You never know what small information would throw you off.
  • Not your top choice: this goes without saying – if the college is not your top choice, do not waste your ED chance.
  • Financial aid requirement: if you’re looking for financial aid, you won’t be able to wait for colleges’ replies and then evaluate which college is the best for you.
  • Slacking off: if you plan to slack off, then do not even consider ED. Even if you get accepted, the college can withdraw the approval letter from you.

Wrapping Things Up: What is Early Decision 1?

Submitting an ED application to your top school is always a relief. However, we recommend you go through the list above to decide whether it is the right fit for you.

If you’re looking for financial aid and want to compare different offers, then ED is a gamble. However, if you’re incredibly sure about the college, go for it!

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...