Benefits of Early Decision in College Admissions: Pros and Cons

Updated: May 15, 2023 You’re our #1 priority.
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early decision benefits

Want to secure acceptance into your dream school?

You have options.

According to U.S. News, early acceptance rates at certain schools were at least 44 percentage points higher than regular acceptance.

What does this mean for you?

We’ll explain.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of early decision, how it differs from early action, and how to navigate financial aid packages when applying early.

We’ll also discuss the potential drawbacks of early decisions and offer tips on making the most of your college application process. So stay tuned to learn how applying early can give you the edge you need in pursuing higher education.

What is Early Decision and How Does it Work?

Early decision (ED) is a binding agreement between a student and a college in which the student commits to attending the college if accepted. Students applying for early decision typically submit their applications in the early round, with ED deadlines often falling in November.

Applying early decision to selective colleges can offer benefits such as better odds of acceptance and a potentially more personalized review from admissions officers.

Brief Overview of the College Admissions Process

The college application process begins during a student’s junior year of high school when they start researching colleges and preparing for standardized tests. As senior year approaches, students narrow down their top choice schools and begin working on their college applications.

The application process usually involves submitting transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. Students can apply to multiple colleges using different types of admission plans, including early decisions, early action, and regular decision.

The Concept of Early Decision

admissions consultant help

If a student is accepted through early decision, they must withdraw all other college applications and enroll in the college that accepted them. This commitment is what sets early decision apart from other admission plans like the benefits of early action, which allows students to apply early without the binding commitment.

Both early decision and early action applicants generally receive admissions decisions in mid-December, well before regular decision applicants.

Importance of Understanding Early Decision Benefits

Early decision has several benefits that can make it an attractive option for students with a clear top-choice school. For one, early decision applicants often have higher acceptance rates compared to regular applicants, giving students a competitive edge in the admissions process.

Additionally, applying early decision can help ease the stress of senior year, as accepted students will know their college plans much earlier than their peers. It’s essential for students considering early decision to understand these benefits and weigh them against potential drawbacks, such as the limited ability to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges.

The Early Decision Difference

The main difference between early decision and other application plans lies in the binding agreement it entails. Students who apply early decision to their dream school commit to attending that college if they are accepted.

This commitment can demonstrate to admissions officers the student’s strong interest in attending the institution, which can be a factor in increasing acceptance rates for early decision applicants.

Additionally, early decision students often find out their admission status in mid-December, providing a sense of relief and certainty earlier in the college application process.

Early Decision vs. Regular Decision

When comparing early decision to regular decision, there are several key differences to consider. First, while early decision applicants must commit to attending the college if accepted, regular decision applicants have no such obligation. This allows students who apply through regular decision to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges before making a final decision.

Regular decision deadlines typically fall in January or February, with students receiving their admissions decisions in the spring. Although applying early decision can provide better odds of acceptance, students should carefully consider the financial implications and their level of certainty about their top choice school before applying.

Early Decision vs. Early Action

Early decision and early action both offer students the opportunity to apply to colleges ahead of regular decision deadlines. However, there are important differences between early decision and early action.

Early action, like early decision, allows students to submit their applications early and receive decisions in mid-December. The key difference is that early action is non-binding, meaning that accepted students are not obligated to enroll in the college that accepts them.

Some schools also offer single-choice early action, which restricts students from applying early action to other colleges but still maintains the non-binding nature of early action. When deciding between early decision and early action, students should consider their level of commitment to their top choice school and their need to compare financial aid offers from multiple institutions.

Benefits of Early Decision: Increased Chances of Acceptance

Applying early decision can increase a student’s chances of acceptance at selective colleges, as these institutions often admit a higher percentage of early decision applicants compared to regular decision applicants. By applying early decision, students demonstrate their strong interest and commitment to their dream school, which can be appealing to admissions officers looking to build a cohesive and dedicated incoming class.

Admission Rates for Early Decision Applicants

early decision applicant

Early decision applicants often enjoy higher acceptance rates compared to their regular decision counterparts. According to a Forbes report, early decision acceptance rates at some top schools were significantly higher than regular decision acceptance rates, indicating a clear advantage for students applying early.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that these statistics can vary across different institutions and that applying early decision should not be considered a guaranteed path to admission.

Comparing Admission Rates With Regular Decision

While it’s true that early decision applicants generally have better odds of acceptance compared to regular decision applicants, it’s essential to look at each college’s specific admission rates and other factors that might influence these numbers.

For instance, some colleges may have a smaller applicant pool for early decision, which could inflate the acceptance rate. It’s crucial to research individual colleges and their admissions standards to make an informed decision about whether applying early decision is the right choice.

The Role of Demonstrated Interest

Demonstrated interest plays a significant role in the college application process, especially when applying early decision. By submitting an early decision application, students are effectively communicating their commitment to attend the college if accepted, which can be an attractive factor for admissions officers.

This strong show of interest can help early decision applicants stand out from the regular applicant pool, potentially giving them a higher chance of acceptance. However, students should be cautious and fully understand the binding nature of early decision applications before committing to their top choice school.

More Pros of Early Decision

Faster Response Times

high school students

Early decision applicants typically receive their admissions decisions much earlier than regular decision applicants. Most schools release early decision results by mid-December, allowing students to know their college future before the new year. This faster response time can alleviate stress and anxiety during the college application process and help students focus on finishing their senior year strong.

Saving Time on Additional Applications

By applying early decision and receiving a positive outcome, students can save time and effort that would have been spent on additional college applications. Once accepted to their dream school through early decision, students can redirect their energy towards preparing for college life, rather than juggling multiple applications and keeping track of various admission deadlines.

Streamlining the Financial Aid Process

Applying early decision can also streamline the financial aid process for some students. Early decision applicants often receive their financial aid packages alongside their acceptance letters, giving them a clear picture of the financial resources available to them.

However, it’s essential to carefully review the financial aid offer and compare it with potential offers from other colleges before committing to the binding early decision option. Students should also be aware that financial aid packages might be less flexible for early decision applicants, as they have less opportunity to compare financial aid offers from other institutions.

Early Resolution of Admission Status

One significant advantage of early decision applications is the early resolution of admission status, which allows students to move forward with their plans. By receiving their acceptance letters in mid-December, early decision applicants can avoid the uncertainty that many regular decision students face as they wait for responses from multiple colleges. This early resolution can provide a sense of relief and closure, making it easier to concentrate on the remainder of the academic year.

Impact on Mental Health

The college application process can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for many high school seniors. Early decision can alleviate some of this stress by providing students with a quicker answer to their college fate. Knowing where they will be attending college ahead of time can positively impact a student’s mental health by eliminating the prolonged uncertainty and stress associated with waiting for regular decision results.

Focusing on the Final Semester of High School

With the early resolution of their college admission status, early decision students can focus on making the most of their final semester of high school. Instead of being preoccupied with multiple applications and admission decisions, these students can dedicate more time to their studies, extracurricular activities, and preparing for college life. This focus on their senior year can lead to a more enjoyable and fulfilling final semester, ensuring a smoother transition to college.

Potential Cons of Early Decision

Limited Time for College Visits and Research

One potential drawback of early decision is the limited time available for college visits and research. With early decision deadlines typically falling in the fall of senior year, students have less time to explore their options and ensure they are making the best choice for their education. It’s essential to balance the benefits of early decision with the need to thoroughly research and visit colleges before committing to a binding agreement.

Financial Considerations

Financial considerations can also pose challenges for early decision applicants. Because early decision is a binding commitment, students may not have the opportunity to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges. If a student’s financial aid package from their early decision college is insufficient, they may face financial strain or difficulty attending their dream school.

Comparing Multiple Admission Offers

Lastly, applying early decision means giving up the opportunity to compare multiple admission offers. For some students, receiving offers from various colleges can provide valuable insight into the best fit for their goals and preferences.

However, when students apply early decision, they commit to attending that college if accepted, which may not provide the same level of flexibility and choice as the regular decision process.


The early decision process offers several key benefits for early applicants, including increased chances of acceptance, faster response times, reduced stress and anxiety, and the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to their dream school. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of applying early decision, as it comes with binding commitments and potential financial considerations.

Balancing early decision with other application options, such as early action and regular decision, allows students to make the most of the college application process. Early action deadlines and early decisions can provide a strategic advantage, but it’s crucial to consider the overall impact on one’s college journey.

Seeking guidance from college counseling professionals, admissions consultants, and experienced peers can provide valuable insights into the early admission process and help students determine the best approach. By carefully evaluating their readiness, commitment, and financial resources, students can make informed decisions about which early decision options are best suited to their individual needs and aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does early decision increase chances? How much does early decision help?

Early decision can increase chances of acceptance, as it demonstrates commitment to the college and often results in higher acceptance rates compared to regular decision.

Why is early decision better than regular?

Early decision is better than regular decision because it offers faster response times, reduced stress, and a higher likelihood of acceptance.

What are the cons of applying early decision?

The cons of applying early decision include a binding commitment, limited time for college research, and inability to compare financial aid offers.

When does early decision come out?

Early decision results typically come out in mid-December.

When are early decision applications due?

Early decision application deadlines usually fall in November but may vary by institution.

Can I apply to multiple Early Decision schools?

No, students can only apply early decision to one school.

How binding is early decision? What happens if you break early decision?

Early decision is a binding agreement, and breaking it can result in consequences such as revoked admission offers from other schools.

How does Early Decision affect scholarship opportunities?

Early Decision may limit scholarship opportunities, as students cannot compare financial aid packages from multiple schools.

What is the difference between early decision 1 and 2?

The difference between Early Decision 1 and 2 is the timeline, with ED II offering a later application deadline and decision notification date.