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Early Decision or Early Action - Applying to College

The number of early action applicants to Yale College increased by more than 10.4 percent this year, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Thursday.

Early Decision

It is a good idea to apply through a college's early decision program if you know you will definitely attend upon acceptance, as this is a binding process. Early decision is a common early admission policy used in college admissions in the United States for admitting freshmen to undergraduate programs. It is used to indicate to the University or College that the candidate considers that institution to be his or her top choice. Candidates applying early decision typically submit their applications by the end of October of their senior year of high school and receive a decision in mid-December. In contrast, students applying regular decision typically must submit their applications by January 1 and receive their admissions decision by April 1.

Students may apply to other institutions thorough early action, rolling, or regular decision, but must limit their early decision application to one school. This confirms your interest and commitment to the college. Since there are so many great schools out there, not too many applicants limit themselves to this type of application process. Even though your chances of acceptance are much higher, the college may be less affordable, as one is unable to compare financial aid packages received from other schools. Once admitted early decision, an applicant must withdraw applications to other schools. An applicant may be excused from the early decision commitment if little or no financial aid is offered, so long as this would not make the student's matriculation possible.

Early Action

Unlike the regular college admissions process, Early Action usually requires students to submit an application by November 1 of their senior year of high school instead of an early January deadline. Students are notified of the school's decision by mid-December instead of early April. Early Action is similar to many colleges' early decision programs but is not binding the way Early Decision is. Early action allows candidates to decline the offer if accepted, and depending on the program, it may be possible for a candidate to apply to more than one early action school and an early decision school.

Consideration for Early Decision Applicants

Typically, a candidate who has applied early decision can receive one of three outcomes in December. He or she may be admitted, in which case he or she is bound to attend the school which admitted him or her; rejected, in which case he or she will not be able to attend the school; or deferred, in which case he or she will be reconsidered for admission with the second round of early decision applications or with the regular decision pool and notified later with their final decision.

Reasons to Apply Early

Admission rates for "early" applicants tend to be higher than the overall admission rates for the institution; this is particularly true of the most selective colleges. This is usually attributed to three factors: first, candidates who apply "early" can only present colleges with their transcripts until the end of junior year of high school and therefore must be particularly strong applicants with very persuasive transcripts; second, candidates who apply "early" have dedicated themselves to an institution and are more likely to match the institution's admission standards; third, student athletes sometimes apply "early" to their top choice school to demonstrate their commitment to a college varsity coach who, in turn, can push their applications in the admissions process.

Concerns about the Early Decision Process

Controversy surrounds early decision. Critics of the program think that binding an applicant, typically seventeen or eighteen years old, to a single institution is unnecessarily restrictive. Furthermore, candidates for financial aid are, if admitted under early decision, unable to compare financial aid offers from different colleges. It was in answer to these criticisms that, starting in 2004, Yale and Stanford switched from early decision to single-choice early action. Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Virginia announced in the Fall of 2006 that they would no longer offer Early Action or Early Decision programs, which they claim favor the affluent. They will instead move to a single deadline which does not. The University of Florida followed suit the following year.