Colleges offer many different application options: Early Decision I, Early Decision II, Early Action, Single-Choice Early Action, and Regular Decision. In this article, I will explain the meaning, list potential advantages, and disadvantages, and give advice for each option.

What is a Regular Decision?

Regular Decision is the most common application option. Regular Decision is a non-binding option which means that admitted students do not have to enroll to that college. In Regular Decision, prospective students have to submit their application by January 1st or January 15th for most colleges although few colleges do have a later regular decision application deadline such as by February 1st. Typically, colleges announce their admission results by April 1st, and admitted students have to deposit enrollment fees by May 1st.

What is Early Decision I?

Early Decision I is an application option practiced by most colleges to admit qualified students before admitting students through regular decisions. Early Decision I is a binding option which means that accepted students have to enroll to that college and also withdraw all other applications. However, if the financial aid is inadequate, students can decline the offer of admission. Also, students can have only one binding application pending at any time, but students can submit other non-binding applications (regular decision, early action).  As mentioned earlier, students have to withdraw their non-binding applications if admitted through Early Decision I. In Early Decision I, students have to submit their applications by November 1st or November 15th. Typically, colleges announce their admissions results by the beginning of the winter break (December 15th), and the admitted students have to deposit enrollment fee by late December to early January.

Pros of Early Decision I

  1. Early Decision I admission rate is much higher than Regular Decision admission rate because of the binding commitment (usually admission rates are 2-3 times higher).
  2. Students save much time and application fees because they do not have to apply through regular decisions.
  3. Students can enjoy the rest of their senior year without worrying about college applications!

Cons of Early Decision I

  1. Students cannot compare financial packages because they would have to withdraw all other applications if they are accepted. If financial aid is important to you, apply Early Decision to schools that promise to meet the full demonstrated need of international students.
  2. An earlier deadline means that a student needs to complete the application and standardized tests earlier. Also, Early Decision does not take the senior year’s first semester GPA into calculation, and a student with a low GPA might need his first semester grades to boost his GPA.

What is Early Decision II?

Early Decision I and Early Decision II are very similar. The only differences are the application deadline and the notification date. In Early Decision II, application deadline is either January 1st or the 15th which is also the application deadline of regular decision. However, students get notified in the middle of February, a month earlier than the regular decision notification date. Also, students have to deposit the enrollment fee a few weeks after the notification date.

Pros of Early Decision II

A slight boost to the admission rate

Cons of Early Decision II

I am opposed to applying Early Decision II because Early Decision II provides no benefits found in Early Decision I.

  1. Unlike Early Decision I admission rate, Early Decision II admission rate is not much higher than regular decision admission rate.
  2. Students would have to apply for regular decisions to many colleges and pay application fees. Also, much time needs to be spent completing applications and supplementary essays.
  3. Students cannot compare financial aid offers because they would have to withdraw any other applications.

What is Early Action?

Unlike Early Decision I and II, Early Action is a non-binding application option which means that admitted students are not required to attend that college. Early Action enables students to submit their applications early and to be notified of their results before the winter break. While most elite colleges do not have this application option, many excellent colleges do. In Early Action, students have to submit their applications by November 1st or the 15th. Colleges typically announce their results before the winter break (December 15th) and admitted students have to deposit enrollment fees by May 1st.

Pros of Early Action

  1. There is a slight admission boost by applying early action.
  2. If admitted, students will have a peace of mind before regular decision notification date knowing that they are admitted to a good college with an excellent financial aid.

Cons of Early Action.

  1. An earlier deadline means that a student needs to complete the application and standardized tests earlier. Also, Early Action does not take the senior year’s first semester GPA into calculation, and a student with a low GPA might need his first semester grades to boost his GPA.

What is Single Choice Early Action?

Single Choice Early Action is a non-binding application option practiced by Ivy League and few elite schools. However, this application option is single choice which means that a student cannot apply through any other Early Action or Early Decision. In Early Decision I and II, students could submit any non-binding Early Action applications, but in Single Choice Early Action, students cannot submit any other early applications. In Single Choice Early Action, students have to submit their applications by November 1st. Typically, colleges announce their admission results by December 15th, and admitted students have to deposit enrollment fees by May 1st.

For Early Applications: Accepted/Deferred/Rejected

In early applications, a student might either be accepted, deferred, or rejected. Deferral means that a student is not accepted nor rejected but that they will withhold their decision. A student’s application will be reviewed with the regular decision applications.

For Regular Decisions: Accepted/Waitlisted/Rejected

In the regular decisions, a student might either be accepted, waitlisted, or rejected. Waitlisted means that a student is neither accepted nor rejected. The colleges will admit the student if not enough accepted student enrolls, but the chances are next to impossible in selective colleges.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

My Advice

If you have strong GPA and test scores by November of your senior year, I strongly encourage you to apply early because applying early will motivate you to prepare the common application, application essays, and other financial documents. However, I do not encourage Early Decision II because there are more disadvantages than advantages. I would encourage you to apply to three to four Early Action schools that promise to meet full financial need of international students or those that will give you enough financial aid for you to attend. If you just need financial aid up to tuition, you will have many options in mid-tier colleges, but if you need more financial aid than your tuition, you will have fewer options in mid-tier colleges.

For Your Information: My Application Story

In November, I applied Early Decision I to Swarthmore College and Early action to Colorado College and Birmingham-Southern College. I was rejected from Swarthmore College, deferred from Colorado College, and accepted at Birmingham-Southern College. I could only afford $7,000 a year toward tuition/room/board, and I think that my financial need affected my admission results greatly. I was accepted at Birmingham-Southern College with significant financial aid which I am grateful for. In regular decision, I applied to sixteen schools, all of which meets the full financial need of international students. Because I could not afford schools that meet financial needs up to only tuition, I only applied to the schools that will meet full demonstrated need up to tuition, room, and board. In the application process, my only regret was that I did not apply to Rhodes College through Early Action. After the Early Action deadline, I discovered that Rhodes Colleges will meet full demonstrated need of international students and was disappointed that I could have known my admission results earlier. Other than the small disappointment, my application process was relatively smooth.

I hope this article on Types of College Application Options was helpful to you. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.