Why Early Action is Better Than Early Decision (For Most Students)

Application Strategies
March 9, 2020
As College Admissions Evolve To Give Students More Opportunities, New Early Action Application Deadlines Have Emerged...

This leaves many students asking the crucial question of when to send in their college applications. With so many different deadlines, it can be difficult for students to assess when the best time to send their application will be. For every student and every college, this answer will be different.

However, for most students, early action deadlines will offer the most benefits and flexibility. In this article, we’ll cover the differences between early action and early decision deadlines to help you determine which deadline will be best for you.

What You’ll Find In This Article

What Is Early Action?

Applying to a school under the early action deadline allows you to cut down on your application related stress by getting your applications out of the way well before the regular deadlines. The biggest difference between early action applications and regular college applications will be your application deadline and admission timeline; early action applicants receive their acceptance, rejection, or waitlisted decision before regular applicants.

Importantly, early action deadlines are non-binding decisions.

This means you are not required to attend a college that admits you under early action, and you can apply to as many colleges under these deadlines as you like.

Additionally, your application during earlier rounds of admission will be considered in a smaller pool of potential applicants. While these earlier rounds are often very competitive, this allows your application a better chance to stand out, especially if there are unique or compelling aspects of your story woven throughout your application. Plus, even if your application isn’t competitive enough for the smaller early action pool, promising applications are deferred to the regular decision pool and given another shot.

These factors make early action deadlines a strong option for students who know where they’d like to attend early on in their senior year. Deadlines for early action admissions often fall on November 1st and November 15th, with each college setting its own deadline.

While this gives students less time to prepare their applications if they wait until the school year to start, in turn, it gives students the ability to spend their senior year actually preparing for college instead of worrying about applications, because they’ll already have sent their applications out.

The Difference Between Early Action And Early Decision

When considering when to send your college application, one of the hardest questions you’ll face is determining whether to apply by early action or early decision. Despite these similar names and concepts, there are key differences between the two deadlines.

The important difference between early action and early decision is that early decision applications are binding agreements. If you’re accepted into a college using an early decision application, you are committed to attending that college. The biggest consequences for breaking early decision agreements come from the colleges sharing that information among themselves; students who break an early decision agreement for little to no good reason can find their applications with other schools in jeopardy.

Another major difference is that students are only allowed to apply to one institution at a time using early decision applications. Most colleges require that a student withdraw all their other applications when applying via early decision. Early action applications, on the other hand, do not limit a student’s options and they can apply under early action deadlines at multiple colleges.

While these factors mean that early action applications don’t show as much dedication as early decision, the two application types have their uses. For all but the most committed students, the chance of your application being rejected under early decision (and the ensuing scramble to find a college where you can attend so late in the admissions process) is the biggest difference to keep in mind.


  • Getting applications out of the way earlier reduces stress throughout your senior year
  • Your application is considered in a smaller pool of students than regular decision
  • Allows you to apply to multiple schools
  • Does not show significant commitment to a single college


  • Allows you to show dedication to a single college
  • Binds you to attend the college if accepted (regardless of financial aid)
  • Your application is considered in the smallest pool of students
  • If deferred or rejected, you will have little time to apply to other colleges

Why Early Action Is (Usually) The Better Choice

As we’ve mentioned before, for many students early action deadlines will be the most beneficial. There are three main reasons why early action is generally preferable: earlier deadlines, flexibility, and a spread out admission timeline. While early action shares the deadlines and admission timeline of early decision, the flexibility of early action is often a huge deciding factor in making early action the right choice.

One of the biggest benefits of early action over early decision is that early action is non-binding. As mentioned earlier, that means you’re not committed to attending any schools you apply to under early action. This gives you flexibility to explore your options, whereas with early decision applications you only have one option.

Therefore, if you decide to apply early action to one school, feel free to apply early action to as many schools as you’d like. If you’re rejected or deferred from an early action application, there’s less stress and panic than there would be if the same happened to an early decision application.

With the early deadlines and the ability to apply to more than one school, early action gives you plenty of time to research all your options and make informed choices. Determining how you’ll pay for college and how to best secure financial aid is a process that can take you some time. Early action gives you plenty of time to switch your focus to this crucial step; after November you can focus on this and the many other ways you can prepare yourself for college.

Early Action Gives You More Options

While early action may not be right for every student, it allows you to explore your options in a way that early decision doesn’t. For students with a clear preference for several schools rather than one dream school, early action means they can apply early and still show a level of seriousness that isn’t present in regular decision applications.

After all, with both forms of early application, students need to submit their applications in early to mid-November. That requires a lot of initiative on behalf of the student, which shows a level of dedication to the college admissions journey that officials appreciate and take note of.

If you’re looking to apply via early action, but are having trouble gathering everything you need so early in the school year, please reach out to our WeAdmit counselors. We have experience helping students prepare for both early action and early decision; these types of applications each come with their own set of hurdles that we can help you overcome . We’d love to help guide you and your family through the early application process, from gathering important documents to refining your essays on a tight timeline. Applying early is a great way to take some of the time-crunch out of your senior year.

Plus, Early Action Gives You The Benefits Of Time And Flexibility!



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