Difference Between Early Decision & Early ActionIn brief, ED is binding while EA is Not. It is said that ED gives you a better chance of admissions. I read that some legacy and influential parents encourage their children to apply ED since acceptance rates can be as high as 50%+. For example at Duke, ED acceptance is 20% where normally its closer to 6%. On the other, EA acceptance rates may only be slightly better than regular admissions, but require that you submit your application early, which requires better time management to submit in time. Also some schools offer ED and others don’t, and others will allow you to ONLY apply ED to their schools but not others. Here is an example from Vanderbilt: Consequences for Reneging on Early Decisions: ED is binding but not legally binding. From my readings and knowledge it seems that the worst that can happen (which actually would really suck!) would be if the student applied to several schools through ED, and selected one over the others. Then the rejected school(s) can call the one you accepted and inform them prompting a withdrawal of the acceptance (this may be tricker for AdComms to do if you accept a decision for a university abroad like in England or even Canada). In the end, many put it at honor and say if you pull-out of a ED then it would tarnish your reputation at your high school and likely with that college. So its not something you want to do! But there are reasons to justify why you would not be able to uphold a ED acceptance. Here are some examples from a great U.S. News Article on the topic: Most colleges will release students from early decision offers without penalty if applicants receive a financial aid package that doesn’t make it feasible economically for the student to attend. There may be other compelling reasons that would sway an admissions officer to release an accepted student from an early decision offer without consequence – a sick parent, for instance – admissions officers say.
Considerations & Next StepsSo when deciding whether to apply ED v. EA or Regular Admissions you should ask yourself these questions (some questions derived from a U.S. News Article on the topic):
- Is there a significant statistical advantage to applying ED?
- Would a midyear addition to your application such as a completed internship or first semester grades enhance your overall profile?
- Have you thoroughly vetted the school, including sitting in on a class and staying on campus overnight?
- Are you willing to part with financial aid options?