Blog 9 – Applying for US Colleges? Early Decision, Early Action, What is the Difference?
The application process for US universities is much more complex than the process for Canadian universities. Students not only need to be academically advanced but also apply strategically. The first thing a student needs to know is Early Decision (ED) versus Early Action (EA).
Early Decision (ED) Versus Early Action (EA)
Early decisions are binding. A student who is accepted as an ED applicant MUST attend the college. When applying for an early decision, you will sign a statement committing your enrollment in that college upon acceptance. Because of this binding agreement to enroll, you can only apply to one school early decision.
Early action plans are nonbinding; however, students may receive an early response to their applications without having to commit to the college. There are no early decisions in Canadian universities, while early actions are very similar to the first-round decision-making offered by UBC and UofT.
Which Universities Offer ED and EA?
There are some prestigious universities offering early decision plans. Click on these links to learn more about the ED process of each college.
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Columbia University
- Johns Hopkins
- Rice University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Chicago
- Washington University in St. Louis
In terms of early action, numerous universities at all levels from Harvard University to California Institute of Technology (Caltech), from Yale University to Purdue University. In addition, some colleges offer both ED and EA.
Do I Get a Better Chance Applying Early Decision or Early Action?
The simple answer is YES. Applying for an Early Decision definitely boosts your acceptance rate by 10-12% compared to those of regular round applicants. However, early actions don’t provide as large of an admission advantage as early decisions but can boost your odds slightly if you can turn in a quality application early. Some top universities have released their data on ED, EA, regular round, and overall acceptance rates for the 2020–21 admissions cycle.
|Universities||ED Acceptance||EA Acceptance||Regular Round Acceptance||Overall Acceptance|
|University of Pennsylvania||19%||N/A||7%||9%|
|Johns Hopkins University||29.0%||N/A||8%||9%|
|Carnegie Mellon University||25%||N/A||17%||17%|
Should I Apply for ED or EA?
The most significant benefit of applying ED is the higher acceptance rate. Even though EA will not boost your acceptance rate much, by applying early, you reduce the stress by cutting the writing time for a decision. However, students should be aware of the drawbacks of ED and EA. Here are some tips for you.
1. Do an extensive amount of research on the universities you want to apply to. No matter what, start your preparation early.
2. Avoid ED if the university is not your number one choice since you will have to go if admitted.
3. There is also a plan called single-choice early action (SCEA) (otherwise known as Restrictive Early Action). If you apply for Single-Choice Early Action, you may not simultaneously apply for Early Action to any other school. In general, we recommend avoiding SCEA to the most prestigious school such as Harvard or Yale since these universities are too competitive.
4. Even though you apply early, most colleges do not notify ED and EA applicants of admission until mid-December, which is close to the deadline for the most regular rounds. If you wait until your ED or EA is rejected to start applying for other schools, you may run out of time. Therefore, apply to all your universities without writing for the ED or EA decisions.
5. Make rational decisions. Miracles do not happen.