What Does Early Decision Mean?
In essence, early decision means that you can be accepted to a college much sooner than you would have if you had applied regular decision – usually months earlier. This option, however, is not offered at all schools. While it is nice to know if you are accepted to your top choice early in your senior year, there are some restrictions that come along with this benefit that you need to be aware of to help you weigh the pros and cons of applying this route.
Early Decision is Binding!
If you get accepted to a school through early decision, you MUST attend that school, regardless of what other schools you have applied to or been accepted to thus far. You, and your parent, actually sign a contract committing to this. If accepted, you will have to pull your applications from any other schools on which you are waiting for a response. So, you better be 100% sure that you truly want to attend any school to which you are going to apply early decision.
You Can Only Apply Early Decision to One School
Because you are contractually bound to attend the school that accepts you early decision, you can only apply to one school using this type of application.
Be Sure of Your Financial Situation
Because you can only apply to one college via early decision, you are likely not to have heard back from any other schools. As a result, you won’t be able to compare financial aid packages. This makes it even more important to understand your financial situation. Can you afford the school without any aid? Will you or your parents qualify for financial aid? When you apply early decision, you will need to pay careful attention to the special financial aid application deadline because it is typically much sooner than the regular decision financial aid deadline. Many schools that offer early decision will do a pre-read of your finances so you can have a good idea of how much money you may receive. Not all schools offer this, but some do, so you should definitely ask.
How to Apply Early Decision
When you apply early decision to a specific college, you fill out the application as you would any other application, but you select that you are applying Early Decision. You will not be able to submit the application until you and 1 of your parents have contractually agreed to the early decision requirements.
Early Decision Notifications
Typically early decision responses come out at a specific date, and sometimes even a specific time of day. Check with the school to find out its notification process.
What If Your Early Decision Application Is Not Accepted?
If you were not accepted in the early decision round, meaning you were deferred into the regular decision pool, follow the school’s directions for next steps. You may need to submit additional information, such as updated grades or test scores or your continued interest in the school. Some schools do not want you to submit any other documents or information. Make sure you follow the school’s guidelines.
Remember, early decision is binding so it’s important that you understand how this application type works and if it is right for you.
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