Different Ways to Apply and Applying Early

All of the application deadlines can get confusing. This is why it is quintessential to know the differences between the ways in which you can apply and the benefits of applying early.

By: Katelyn Pramberger, Political Science and Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University, 2023


There are four ways you can apply to college. The first is Early Decision. This is a binding early round application normally due around November 1. If you are accepted to Early Decision, you are legally bound to enroll at the school. This is normally your first choice/dream school. The benefits of early decision are that, if you are applying to a more competitive school, the acceptance rate is higher and you get the application over with early which means you get your decision made earlier. The drawbacks are that if you get in you must go to the school and withdraw the rest of your applications, in other words it is legally binding.


The second is Early Action. Early action is similar to Early Decision because you apply around the same time in early November, you get your decision back earlier, and for some, but not all, schools the acceptance rate is higher. Unlike early decision, early action is non-binding which means that if you get in, you can still choose another school.


The third is Restricted Early Action. Like Early Decision, Restricted Early Action is binding which means you must attend if accepted. Normally these applications are also due in early November. Some schools do not offer Early Decision but they offer Restricted Early Action. The drawbacks of this are that you can’t apply in early rounds to any other school. The benefits are that you apply early and get your decision back early.


The fourth is Regular Decision. These applications are due in early-mid January and pretty much every school offers this option. The benefits are that you have more time for the application, can get back all decisions without having to qwirthdarw them, and you are able to weigh the options of each school you get accepted to. The drawbacks are that the acceptance rates are normally much lower which means more competitive schools are harder to get into and your receive decision late which can be stressful because it is the last round of college applications.


My advice is to apply early to as many schools as possible. This will ensure you have a better chance if getting accepted to competitive schools and you will get your decisions back earlier. Good luck!

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