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EA and ED: What is the Difference Anyway?

Jenn Curtis, Guest Post

Early Action and Early Decision: two terms that sound similar but carry with them slightly different meanings.  Students and families sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between the two, so I thought I would provide a little lesson in “early lingo.”

Can't Figure It Out

Early Action is an option that some schools offer.  Under Early Action, a student can apply to an institution at an earlier deadline than the Regular Decision applicant pool.  This results in receiving an admission decision by an earlier date.  Early action is not binding, meaning that if offered admission, a student is not obligated to attend the institution.

Early Decision, on the other hand, is a binding contract.  That is, like Early Action, a student applies at an earlier date than the regular decision deadline, but unlike Early Action, the student is obligated to attend the institution if accepted.  Therefore, a student should only apply to one school under Early Decision.  In addition, that one school should be the student’s undisputed first-choice school.  If there is any question in the student’s mind, he or she should consider Regular Decision.

With either option, it is important to evaluate each student’s unique situation.  For instance, if a student earned poor grades in the spring of junior year, it might be a good idea to apply for the regular decision deadline in order to show an upswing in Fall semester grades in the senior year.  Early options also carry with them important implications with regard to financial aid packages, and it is important to research and discuss these topics before deciding what is right for you.


Jenn Curtis of FutureWise Consulting works with high students in grades 9 -12 .  At Future Wise, they are passionate about thoughtfully and honestly guiding students on their journey to college.



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