The Difference Between Early Action, Early Decision and Regular Decision Applications


College application season is coming up! This means you have to decide how and when to submit your application to your chosen colleges and universities. Each application plan is unique in its own way and a wrong decision could cause you to rethink or change which institution you want to enroll in.


Early Action


Early Action allows you to apply early for an institution without having to fully commit to that specific school. With this plan, you are allowed to apply for other institutions and are not forced to withdraw the applications to other schools if you get accepted through the Early Action plan.


  • No Commitment - You do not have to fully commit to a school, unlike the ED plan.
  • Early Response - You get an early notification from the school if you are accepted, denied, or deferred into the regular admission applicant pool.
  • Financial Aid - You are able to compare financial aid offers from different schools which could be beneficial financially.
  • Less Stress- You are less stressed about applications when January rolls around.


  • Less Polished Applications - Since these applications are due around November, this could affect the overall quality of your essay when it comes to essay questions or other written components of the application.
  • Single Choice Early Action - Some schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, have a policy of “Single Choice Early Action” in which you are only allowed to apply to that specific school and only that school for EA. You may not apply to any other school via the EA plan.
  • Senior Year Grades - Sometimes your first-semester senior year grades can help boost your application, so if you submit EA you risk the chance of missing out on the inclusion of these grades.


Early Decision


Early Decision allows you to apply to one school that you are going to be fully committed to and by fully committed, I mean you are practically “binding” yourself to that school if you get accepted. When applying with Early Decision, make sure you are confident with your choice school and have done a lot of research before deciding to take this application route.


  • “Slight” Edge - Since you are fully committing to that one school, if you are accepted, it shows the school that you have set your sights to that school and are 100% sure about your decision to attend.
  • Less Stress - Just like EA applications, ED applications are submitted around November which can save you some time later in the application process.


  • Full Commitment - With Early Decision, you can only apply to one school and if you are accepted to that school then you must attend unless there is a reason you cannot attend, such as your inability to physically pay or be on campus.
  • Withdrawal of Other Applications - If you are accepted to your ED school, you must “withdraw” all other submitted applications because of your commitment.
  • Changing Your Mind - You should be 100% confident about your chosen ED school if you choose this plan. Since this plan is a “binding” plan, you must fully look at your chosen school and make sure you are confident in your decision.
  • Chance of Less Financial Aid - Unlike Early Action, ED acceptances usually don’t come with financial aid offers because of your commitment to that school.
  • Less Polished Applications - Like EA applications, these applications are submitted early which may be inconvenient since the fall time can be very busy time for you. If you submit an unpolished application, it could hinder your chance at being admitted into the school.
  • Senior Year Grades - Just like Early Action, you risk the chance of missing out on the inclusion of these grades, but usually colleges will ask you to submit a Mid-Year report.


Regular Decision


When applying with Regular Decision, many colleges have their applications due around the beginning of January. This application path is generally the most used because of the non-commitment aspect of the application process.


  • Applying to all of Your Chosen Colleges - With the regular decision, you are allowed to apply to all of your desired colleges!
  • More Time and Polished Application - Since the deadline is later than both of the EA and ED paths, you have more time to polish up your application to make sure your application is the best as it can be.
  • Senior Grades - Like I mentioned earlier in both of the EA and ED sections, the inclusion of your senior year grades can help show that you are consistent with your grade marks.


  • Competition - Competition to get into any college is always a thing, but when applying with the thousands of other people, your application may not stand out when it comes to the admission process.
  • Later Admission Decision - Although the wait for the decision is longer, it is only a couple of months after EA and ED decisions.

Whichever path you choose when deciding when to submit your college application, make you choose the best path for your intentions and do a lot of research on your colleges!