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Early Action vs. Early Decision: What’s the Difference? And Important Dates You Need to Know

Do you know the difference between early action vs. early decision when it comes to college acceptance?

With decision release and application deadline dates fast approaching for early action (EA) and early decision (ED) plans, a lot of questions have come up about what makes the two different. On the same note, prospective students are curious about exactly when they’ll be notified about their acceptance.

Before we get to some important early decision and early action decision release dates, let’s go over exactly what each term means. 

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What is early action?

Early action plans mean a student is notified of their acceptance, but under a non-binding agreement. That means a student doesn’t have to formally commit to a school or make their decision until the typical date (usually May 1). 

Early action applications are typically sent in around November, and students tend to hear back sometime in January or February. 

What is early decision? 

Unlike early action plans, early decision plans do signify a binding agreement between a student and a college. That means the student must attend that college if they’re accepted. This comes after reviewing and accepting an offer of financial aid for that school if there is one. 

Because of what early decision plans entail, a student can only apply to one school for early decision, but can still apply to other schools with regular admission. 

Early decision applications are usually sent in around mid-November, and students usually hear back by December. But we’ll get to some more specific dates later.

Which schools have early action and early decision plans?

In the United States, there are around 450 schools with EA or ED plans, and some with both. 

Some schools have what’s known as single-choice early action. This means a student must not apply for either EA or ED to any other school. 

When should students apply for early admission?

Early admissions aren’t right for every student. But in some cases, it can pose significant advantages. 

A student must have researched colleges extensively, and made a list of schools that are a good fit socially, academically, vocationally, and financially. 

Without doing the proper research before applying for early decision to a college, a student risks committing themselves to a school that really isn’t the right choice for them. To help you make sure a school is the right fit, click here. 

But now, back to those advantages of EA and ED plans…

The college application and admissions process is notoriously stressful for students and parents alike. (Though it doesn’t have to be! Here are some ways to help your child through the college application process). 

One great thing about early admissions and early decision plans is you can get some of that stress out of the way sooner and enjoy the rest of your senior year. It also means you have more time to secure housing and figure out some of the logistics of attending college. 

These application dates can impact your student and financial aid. You can read more about that right here. 

Early action and early decision release dates for the class of 2024.

Now, let’s get to some important dates for early action and early decision schools. These are just a few examples of the schools with EA and ED plans and their decision release dates.

ED application decision release dates

  • Amherst College: December 15
  • Boston College: December 25
  • Brown University: Mid-December
  • Columbia University: Mid-December
  • Cornell University: Mid-December
  • Duke University: December 15
  • Harvard University: Mid-December
  • New York University: December 15
  • Yale University: Mid-December

EA application decision release dates: 

  • Babson College: January 1
  • Berklee College of Music: January 31
  • Tulane University: December 15
  • University of Chicago: Mid-December 
  • University of Michigan: December 24
  • University of Notre Dame: December 24
  • Wheaton College: January 15

Which schools are you planning to apply for early decision or early application? Let me know in the comments below. 

Are you looking for one-on-one guidance for how to get into (or pay for) college? Click here for help. 

If you enjoyed this post, don’t miss these either: 

Living Off Campus: Pros and Cons
College Application Checklist
Colleges with Free Laundry: A Time and Money Saving Consideration 

About This Blog

This blog is valued by busy parents of college-bound teens. The topics covered in these posts are mined from years of listening to parents talk about their dreams for their children’s education.

This blog is written from the heart… as it’s my passion and life calling!

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