The choices can be dizzying! So many schools to evaluate and once you find it, then it is decision time again!
Hopefully this will help clarify some of the confusion when it comes to Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision.
EARLY DECISION - Early Decision is a legally binding agreement. This means that if you choose to apply early decision, you must accept their admissions agreement if accepted. This offers both positives and negatives. The negatives are that often, you haven't seen the financial packages offered and yet are still committed. The positives are that the school knows that you will be committed if they give you a spot. Consider their perspective. They want to fill seats. They want students to choose their school. When you decide to go early decision, they have a guarantee that you will be attending and paying. This increases your chances of getting into possibly difficult schools. However, you must be academically in the "ball park" of what they accept. Many times, students who apply early decision are exceptional students who have done their homework, they know beyond a shadow of doubt that this is the school for them and they have the grades and test scores to prove it. You can only apply to one institution early decision and if you are accepted you must withdraw all other applications.
EARLY ACTION- If you are prepared on time, you can apply early action. I only recommend doing this if your grades and test scores are very strong. If not, you might benefit from additional grades in high school as well as testing again to improve your scores. Early Action is not a legally binding agreement. If you apply early action, you will simply get an answer sooner. In addition, if the school is slightly out of reach for you, you may be deferred to regular decision, in which they will review your application again with the students who applied regular decision. This is often when many students have the opportunity to get into schools that they are "reaching" for. Even though you will receive your acceptance early, you still have plenty of time to make your decision as well as apply to other schools of your choice.
REGULAR DECISION- By far, the most popular choice of applying is regular decision. Most students simply don't have all necessary things done by early action / early decision. When applying regular decision, just make sure you are up to date on the deadlines. If you miss a deadline, you won't be able to apply again until the next semester. These deadlines are non negotiable. In addition to application deadlines, there are very strict financial aid and scholarship deadlines to note as well. One of the biggest drawbacks to regular decision is that you often will not find out the decision until late spring.
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