Early Decision vs Early Action Acceptance Letter

Denzil Otieno

Know difference between EA and ED

There has been an increase in early decision acceptance rates lately, and this is because of the recruited athletes, as well as legacy candidates. But you must know that other schools are still very picky. For example, colleges such as Brown, MIT, Harvard, and Yale have significantly registered lower rates. 

It is therefore easy to conclude that securing a place in some of the reputable colleges will get stiffer with time because these schools receive volumes of applications during the regular decision. For example, Dartmouth admitted only 526 ED students out of the possible 1,150 for the class of 2024. Last year alone, 23,650 students sent their applications to Dartmouth, and you can see how stiff that competition was. 

Early this year, Michael M. Gaynor, the Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Villanova University, released the school's Early Action decisions. According to Gaynor, the University received a total of 13,353 EA students for the class of 2024. In the long run, Villanova University had an acceptance rate of 25.3 percent. 

Meanwhile, Villanova University also released the school's ED application submissions. In their statement, they revealed that the school received a total of 1,053 ED student applications, and the University can approximate that they will admit roughly thirty-six percent from the applications they received for the class of 2024. 

ED vs. EA Acceptance Rates By Schools 

For the class of 2023, Harvard University received a total of 6.958 early student applications and admitted 935 students out of that number, which is 13.44%. However, the number of Early Action applications rose by 328 while the acceptance rate went down by 1.10%. Last year, Harvard University received a total of 6,630 EA applications and only admitted 964 students for the class of 2022, which tallies to 14.54%

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania University received a whopping 7,110 ED student applications for the class of 2023. This was a decrease from last year's number of applications received, which was 7,074 applications. Pennsylvania accepted 1,279 students from the applications received, which is an eighteen percent admission rate. 

On the other hand, Princeton University received 5,335 EA student applications and managed to guarantee places for 743 students for the 2023 class. This was a decrease from last year's acceptance rate, where the University managed to secure places for up to 799 students out of the possible 5,402 EA student applications.

Yale University had an increase in the number of applications they received - from 5,733 last year to 6,020 applications received this year. With this overwhelming number of EA student applications, Yale University managed to admit 794 EA candidates for their 2023 class. This was a drop from their 2022 class of admission of 842 students.

Other Universities' Admission Rates  

  • Class of 2021 (MIT) - 8,413 applied, 657 admitted for EA. 
  • Class of 2022 (MIT) - 9,557 applied, 664 admitted for EA.
  • Class of 2023 (MIT) - 9,600 applied, 707 admitted for EA.
  • Class of 2021 (Stanford SCEA) - 16.213 applied, 1,378 admitted for EA. 
  • Class of 2023 (Boston College) - 16,000 applied, 4,480 admitted for EA and ED. 
  • Class of 2023 (Duke) - 4,852 applied, 882 admitted for ED. 
  • Class of 2023 (Georgetown) - 7,802 applied, 919 admitted for EA. 

Early Decision vs. Early Action - What is the Difference 

What is early decision? 

Early decision is an application policy used by most colleges to admit students. If you choose to apply for the early decision application policy, you will send out your application earlier before the regular decision applications. 

Most universities or colleges have an early decision application deadline of November 1rst, and applicants will know their fate by mid-December. This is contrary to when you apply under the regular decision in which you will know your fate in March or April. 

It is essential to note that when you apply for early decision, you will either get accepted, rejected or apply forward to the regular decision pool. 

Additionally, take note that if you apply early action and get accepted, you have made a binding agreement that you will join the college. Also, you will only be allowed to apply to one college if you choose to apply under regular decision. Finally, you will have to withdraw any other applications you made to other schools if accepted under early decision. 

If you break the binding agreement that comes with getting accepted in one of the colleges, you will not undergo any legal action. Still, the college that offered you a place will send out notifications to schools that you broke the early decision agreement you had with them. This will make your chances slimmer. Even worse, your high school will be notified, and future students may be penalized. Now, the only way you can turn down an early decision admission is if you don't have enough financial aid. 

That aside, there are a few schools that have both Early Decision I and Early Decision II. For Early Decision I, you will have to send out your application before the end of November, while for Early Decision II, you will have to submit your application by January. Applicants who apply for Early Decision II will get a response in February. 

So which are some of the schools that have an Early Decision policy? Examples include Cornell, Emory, Vanderbilt, Brown University, Pomona, Tufts, Northwestern, Amherst, Duke University, Syracuse, etc. 

What is early action? 

Early action is an application policy where students apply early then receive their application details early before the school's regular decision response dates. 

In other words, students who opt for early action want to get a response early enough before the usual regular decision response dates as Walter Caffey, the vice president for admissions at Wheaton College. But Walter goes ahead to note that students must have carefully looked into these schools and concluded that they are their perfect match. 

"For me, early action means a student is in a position where they've done some homework," Caffey says. "They've made some investigation into schools that they believe might be a good fit for them."

According to NACAC, some colleges have restrictive early action decision policies, in which students will be limited from applying to other colleges. In other words, restrictive early action policy is limiting you to only using the early action policy one-time. It's almost the same as the early action policy. 

The only difference is that you will only apply once in restrictive early action policy. According to Leykia Nulan, the dean of student admissions at Mount Holyoke College, they will only require you to use this policy once, which means that you won't have any chances of applying to another college once you have applied elsewhere. 

There are about 450 schools that accept EA or ED student applications, while some offer both policies. Additionally, some schools only have restrictive early action, in which you will only be required to make one shot. Due to this, most people have seen ED plans as unfair to those students with a poor financial background because these students will not have an opportunity to compare financial aid offers. 

Summary of what ED applicants should know

  • As an early decision applicant, make sure to apply early before the end of November. 
  • You will get your application decision early enough by December. 
  • You must join the college you applied to if accepted. 
  • You must only apply to one college under an early decision policy. 
  • You may apply to other colleges under regular decision policy. 
  • You will be required to withdraw any applications you submitted to other schools if accepted by ED. 
  • You will be required to send a non-refundable advance by May 1rst. 

Summary of what EA applicants should know

  • You must submit your application early enough. 
  • You will receive your application decision early enough in January or February. 
  • You will be allowed to apply to other schools under the regular decision policy. 
  • You must communicate your decision to the school whether you are joining or not before May 1rst. 

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Can you apply ED and EA?

Some early decision colleges will let you apply to other early action colleges, but others don't. The same applies to early action colleges - while some will allow you to send your applications to other early action colleges, others won't. Sadly, some colleges will let you apply to either of them and not both. 

2. Is it better to apply early action or regular?

Students who apply to early decision colleges are more likely to secure admission to prospective schools. This is because it does offer a higher acceptance rate compared to early action colleges. Even so, students who apply for early action tend to learn early what the admission committee anticipates from their applications.  

3. What happens if you apply early decision and don't go?

Since the early decision is a binding agreement, failing to attend the school may result in penalties. However, you may escape the school's penalty if your non-attendance is reasonable. Try as possible to attend the prospective school to enjoy the benefits that come with it, including the financial aid package that relieves from paying the full amount of fee. 

4. How do you get out of Ed?

Unlike early action colleges, which lets you apply to multiple colleges, early decision restricts you to one. Also, being a binding agreement, you'll have to include your signature and that of your parent/guardian. The admission committee should, therefore, be aware of who should sign off the agreement if you intend to default early decision. 

5. Does early action increase chances?

There's a high possibility that you'll enhance your chances of attending your dream school if you apply for an early decision. Most colleges consider up to 50 percent early applicants, and since only a few students apply for early decision, you're in a better position of enrolling in the prospective school. 

6. Can you apply ED I and ED II?

Yes, you can. However, if you don’t receive an acceptance letter from your first application, feel free to apply for the second time. The best of all is that you can apply for early decision II in a different school that allows ED II. While this is a one-time opportunity, it’s worth giving it a thought. 

7. Does Brown have EA?

Early decision is only offered to students who consider Brown their top-priority. However, once you’ve applied for their early decision, you’re required to withdraw applications from the other colleges to show your genuine interest in the school. 

8. What time do Ed decisions come out?

Usually, the standard deadlines start from 1st to 15th of November. If your application is accepted, you’ll be notified of the admission date in December. And just like I mentioned earlier, some colleges let you apply for Early Decision II, which is also binding, but with extended deadlines of up to January. 

9. Is early decision more competitive?

While there is stiff competition in the applicants, early decisions tend to offer higher acceptance rates than regular decisions. A study by Inside Higher Ed shows that Harvard offered an acceptance rate of 14.9 percent for students who applied for early decision in 2020. This is a huge difference now that regular decisions are offered a 3.4 percent acceptance rate of regular applicants. 

Who should apply early decision or early action?

1. The One Whose Haven’t Met The School’s Requirements

Let’s face it - colleges want to admit students with academic- excellence, and as such, what admission committees consider in their applicants are the grades. And yes, you need to have good grades in your junior year to enhance your chances of attending the school.  

If you performed poorly in your junior year, you would need to instill some efforts in your first semester of senior year to enhance your grades. That way, you’ll have also improved your chances of securing a chance in the regular decision. However, it would be best to improve your grades to be competitive in the pool of regular applicants. 

Most importantly, it would help to have a firm understanding of a successful application process. Sure, you don’t want to be waitlisted, and as such, you need to make sure that your grades are competitive in the pool of regular decision applicants. Also, you’ll need to make some adjustments in your application strategy if you want to revise your schools’ choices. 

2. The One Who Needs To Take the SAT or ACT Supplementary

Excellent scores in your ACT/SAT examination alone won’t guarantee your admission to the target schools. Good grades in ACT/SAT are a must-have in your application to enhance your chances of enrolling in the school. However, refrain from applying early if you haven’t met the standard scores; instead, prepare adequately for the ACT/SAT retakes. You may also want to include some optional colleges to your previous list to be safe.  

3. The One Who Hasn’t Visited Yet

While paying virtual visits to the prospective college is an excellent way of expressing interest, it’s also a vital part of the school research process. College tours are a good bet, especially when you’re still green with campus life. You’d also want to familiarize yourself with the school’s culture and get to meet relevant professors and staff members from the department you intend to major in. 

Meanwhile, your application should convince the admission committee that you’re the right applicant, so you need to be well-informed about the school. Your letter should state why the school is your top-choice and your intentions as well. Virtual tours will not only express your interest in enrolling the school but also help you develop an application that stands out from other applicants. 

It is worth noting that early decision is binding, and as such, you need to get your facts right before submitting your applications. However, visiting the campus will help you know whether the school is a perfect fit for you. 

4. The One Who Hasn’t Started On Their Application Yet

Last-minute rush can be frustrating because early decision involves essays and recommendation letters, which requires a lot of time to be processed. And with the competitive pool of early applicants, you can’t afford to submit incomplete documents. 

Creating a comprehensive and engrossing application consumes time, and as such, admissions committees can tell a hurried application. Instead of rushing to submit an early application that’s due midnight, spend much of your time creating a regular application that stands out. 

5. The One Who Isn’t Sure The School Is Their Top-Choice

Because the early decision is binding, you need to make sure that you’re not making any mistakes by applying to the prospective college. This means that you’ll have to be sure about your attendance because you cannot back off once you’re admitted. Like I mentioned before, the school you default to attending will penalize you and even tarnish your reputation at other colleges you intend to apply to. That said, it would be best if you apply early to a college with an attendance rate of 100%. 

Deciding whether to apply for early action or early decision colleges can be downright frustrating. However, it would help if you’re knowledgeable about these two options to avoid making any mistakes. Maximizing the essential requirements of each option helps a long way to a successful application process. 

Ask for help from relevant sources to make sure that you’re on the right track. Make some in-depth inquiries about the two options and decide the best one for you. The good thing about seeking help from relevant sources is that they will sail with you until the end to ensure that you’re applying to the right college.   

Key Differences Between EA versus ED

The huge difference between these two options is the binding and non-binding factor. Because the early decision is binding, students applying for ED should commit their attendance to the prospective school if the school admits them. On the other hand, students who apply for early action have the flexibility of applying to other institutions.  

While both early action and early decision help students express their interest in the prospective school, early decision surpasses early action in this sector. Early decision applicants are mandated to attend the school upon admission, to protect their yield rate or the specific number of attendance. 

Despite all these differences between these options, both early action and early decision have the same traditional deadlines and notification dates.  

In Summary 

There are a ton of advantages that come with both early action and early decision admission policies. For example, your child will know early enough where they will be joining. So this will save you the time and stress of working on applications.

On the contrary, some limitations come with applying early. You will have the pressure to decide where your child will join, your child will have reduced financial aid opportunities, and the stress of going back to the drawing board to catch up with the regular decision applications. 

Now, the question as to whether your child should go with the early decision or early action depends on several things, such as your child’s goals and background, and the interest they have in specific schools. Therefore, I advise that your child do thorough background research of the schools they want to apply to and determine whether those schools match their preferences. 

So what are some of the factors to consider for both EA and ED? Your child should apply early if: 

  • He or she is confident that they have done thorough research about the school they want.
  • They are sure that college is their perfect match. 
  • Your child is convinced that the school meets his or her social, academic, and geographical preferences. 
  • Your child has reached or surpassed the school’s admission requirements, including the SAT scores. 
  • Your child has enjoyed a quite impressive and consistent academic record. 

But why is EA or ED not suitable for your child? Your child should refrain from going for early decision application if: 

  • He or she hasn’t done adequate research. 
  • Your child is just avoiding the stress that comes with paperwork. 
  • He or she doubts whether they will join the college. 
  • Your child is applying early because he or she has seen his or her friends applying early. 
  • He or she needs to better his or her grades first. 



We have helped 10,000+ students achieve their dream SAT/ACT Scores. We can help you too. days free trial.

We have helped 10,000+ students achieve their dream SAT/ACT Scores. We can help you too. 14 days free trial.

Yes, I Want a Great SAT Score
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.