Early Action vs Early Decision vs Regular Decision… What is the difference?

If you are reading this specific post, CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are making an important decision that may change your life for the better: applying to college! If you are just exploring what it is like to apply to college, knowing what early action, early decision, regular decision, rolling admissions mean are very important terms to know.

So stop wondering and let’s get started. 

Early Decision: An option colleges have on their application that if admitted, the student MUST go to the college in which they applied for under early decision. However, you may decline the school if you were not offered a satisfactory financial aid package. You can only apply for ONE school under early decision.

Application deadline is usually in November/ December with a decision for students by early January.

Regular Decision: A term used to describe the application process in which an institution reviews all its applications before notifying candidates of their decision. Students can apply to multiple schools by perspective regular decision deadlines. Regular decisions applicants can wait to decide what school they will attend after they have received an admission decision from all colleges in which the student has applied to.
Typically, a student applying under regular decision have until May 1st to commit to attending their top choice school.

Early Action:  Unlike early decision where the student must attend the college if accepted, early action is the complete opposite. Under early action, the student applies early and does not have to attend the college if accepted. Students are not required to accept the offer or make a deposit, before May 1st.

Rolling Admissions: Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Applications are not compared to other applications. Applications are reviewed on a first come first serve basis; therefore, it is a good idea to get your application in as early as you can. Not only will submitting your materials earlier will ensure you that there is available space, but also demonstrate your enthusiasm of applying to that school.

Students have until Spring to make a decision to accept or deny that college and compare packages.


What college should I apply to first?  SO many essays, so little time!
Based on student individual needs and goals each student needs to create customized strategy.

Rolling Admission Advice: My tip of advice is to submit your college application to a college that accepts rolling admission by October.

Early Action/ Early Decision Advice: If you are applying under early decision or early action and are under time constraints, it is best to apply to a reach or target school under early decision/ early action in which your scores (GPA and SAT/ACT) fall into or exceed in the top 25% of previously admitted applicants.

Overall Admissions Advice:

  • Even if the college you are applying to, does not have a priority deadline, set one for yourself.
  • The earlier you start your essays and hand in your college applications, the more competitive edge you will have and the faster you get to relax!
  • Starting your college application earlier, you can make sure that you have completed the key requirements because you did not rush.
  •  You want to make sure that every school you apply to– even your safety schools, you are putting your best foot forward! You never know, your safety school might be the school that offers you the full- ride.

Questions for you

  • What colleges are you applying to?
  • Which colleges are you going to apply as early decision?

— Claudia 


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