AC/DC—Australian rock band
So what are these confusing initialisms all about? Let’s dive in:
What is it? Applying ED is, as Ron Burgundy would say, kind of a big deal. In short, if you apply to a college Early Decision, you are committing to attend the school should you be admitted. You can only apply to one school Early Decision, and you must agree to cancel all of your other college applications if you get admitted. You, a parent and a counselor must all sign a letter indicating your commitment to attend the college. To help you remember what Early Decision is all about, just remember that you are making your college decision when you apply through this mechanism.
Why do it? There are about 135 colleges that offer an Early Decision program, and many of them accept a significantly higher percentage of their ED applicants compared to their other applicants. If you are absolutely positively sure about which college you’d like to attend, applying ED can increase your chances in a competitive admissions environment.
Why not do it? Most ED programs require that you apply by around November 1. It’s often difficult at this early date to know for sure which college you’d most like to attend, yet there’s no going back once you receive that ED acceptance packet. Also, while schools with ED will typically offer a competitive financial aid package, it may not match the scholarships and/or need-based aid you would have received from a different institution.
Final word: Think of ED as proposing to your first-choice college. If you are 110% sure about the fit and financial commitment, it may be worth the leap. Otherwise, a promise ring will suffice for now. (Do those still exist?)
What is it? Very different from Early Decision, first of all. Anxious to hear back ASAP? Early Action simply means that the college will send you a decision (i.e., take action) on your application earlier. Offered by about 350 colleges (including Illinois Wesleyan), EA programs typically require a completed application by November 1 or November 15.
Why do it? You can spend less time checking the mailbox and more time deciding among the colleges to which you get admitted.
Why not do it? Don’t let the desire to apply EA rush you when filling out the application. Haven’t quite polished that essay yet? Didn’t have the time to list all of your extracurricular activities? Then there’s nothing wrong with applying …
What is it? The standard, most popular way to apply to college. The deadline is typically later—perhaps February 1 or 15.
Why do it? It will provide you the most time to prepare a completed application that you can feel confident about. Also, if, say, you learn about a college from a friend over winter break, RD will likely be your only option.
Why not do it? You may not receive a decision until late winter or even April. With May 1 serving as the decision deadline, the RD timeline may not give you a great deal of time to contemplate your final college decision and discuss it with your family.
You have over 4,000 college options to explore, a variety of application deadlines to track and an infinite number of essay topics to consider. In that context, three application processes doesn’t sound so daunting, huh? Visit the websites of your favorite colleges to see what they offer and be sure to discuss your options with a parent or counselor. Best of luck no matter which option(s) you choose, and we’ll TTYL!