Picture this: you’ve created your college list, and you’re struggling to decide when to apply. You begin to think, “Should I apply early?” The short answer to your question is yes! However, like most things in life, there’s more than meets the eye.
Early action and early decision: two deadlines you most likely have come across if you have begun or are interested in beginning your college application process. But, when deciding which deadline you want to meet, it is important to know what these terms mean for you as you start to send materials to each school on your list. If you have decided to apply early, you may be thinking, “Aren’t early action and early decision the same?” Well, I’m here to tell you that they couldn’t be more different. Here’s how.
If you’re thinking about applying early decision, you must first recognize that this choice is binding. Put simply, students admitted to a school through early decision are required to enroll in that college. It should also be known that some schools only accept early or regular decision applications; Duke University, for instance, uses this approach. With that said, taking note of the application requirements of each school on your list early on can prevent future headaches and heartache down the line. Another aspect to keep in mind when applying early decision is your potential financial aid award package. Financial aid award dates and policies vary by school, so you don’t want to wait months to receive a less-than-stellar offer from a university you’re now obligated to attend. In other words, when deciding when and where to apply, you must ask yourself, “Am I, or my family, prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of each school on my list?” If the answer is no, you may want to reconsider submitting that early decision application. Here are some other quick facts to note:
- The early decision deadline for most schools is early to mid-November.
- Applying early decision informs the college that they are your first choice.
- You cannot apply early decision to more than one school at the same time.
- If you are not admitted to an institution, you will be rejected or deferred.
- If you are deferred, your application will be considered again for regular admission, and you can then apply to other institutions.
- For schools that require early decision applications, you can apply early and choose to receive your admission notification during the regular decision period.
Unlike early decision, applying early action is a non-binding option, meaning that you are not required to enroll in a college if you are admitted. This gives you the flexibility to apply to, and if you’re accepted, weigh financial aid packages from many schools at once. Here are some things to note about early action:
- Deadlines: Oct. 15th for UNC-Chapel Hill and Nov. 1 for most NC schools
- Applying early action gives you access to scholarships and financial aid early on.
- Your major of choice can affect when you need to apply. For instance, some Design and Engineering programs — among others — require students to apply early action.
- Don’t forget about COVID-19! Applying regular decision may affect your chance of admission, as colleges now want to fill their seats earlier.
So, what did we learn here? For starters, assessing the strength of your application and budget is key if you’re considering applying early decision; being bound to a college you can’t afford is never a good spot to be in. And if you are still unsure when to submit your applications, applying early action is a safe and effective way to go.
I know. I know. This probably seems like an advertisement for early action, but it’s ultimately your decision when and where you choose to apply. Just don’t apply too late, okay?