Listen to The Difference Between Applying Regular Decision, Early Action, and Early Decision from the College Radar Podcast.


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In today's episode of the College Radar Podcast, host Danny Wheeler discusses the differences between applying to college Regular Decision, Early Action, and Early Decision.

Don't worry about catching every detail; reference the bullet points below!  

P.S. Did you catch the last episode of the Radar? Check out Paying for College: The FAFSA.

Bullet points

What is Regular Decision?

Regular Decision is the most common option for applying to college. 

Students can benefit by applying Regular Decision because the deadline to apply falls after the first semester of senior year. That means Regular Decision applicants include their first semester grades in their academic transcript for colleges' consideration. 

Applying Regular Decision also gives families more time to put together college applications, and leaves the option to take the December SAT and/or December ACT. 

What are the deadlines to apply Regular Decision?

The deadline to submit Regular Decision applications is typically January 1st.

Students receive their admissions decision by mid-March to April.

The deadline for students to declare where they will attend is typically May 1st.

What is Early Action?

Students who apply Early Action submit their applications months before the Regular Decisions deadline, shifting the college admissions timeline two to three months forward. Getting out ahead of regular admissions dates, Early Action applicants hear back from colleges typically by mid-December, and can wait until May to decide where to attend. This jump start can save families stress by wrapping up the application process early.

Colleges differ in their restrictions for Early Action applicants. Harvard University, for example, restricts students from applying Early Action to any other private colleges or universities. 

What are the deadlines to apply Early Action?

Applications are due typically by November 1st or 15th.

Students hear back by mid-December to February.

Students can wait until spring, typically May 1st, to declare where they will attend and can consider colleges they've applied to Early Action alongside those they've applied to Regular Decision.

What is Early Decision?

Early Decision applications are different than Early Action applications because they are binding. Students can only apply to one college Early Decision, and if accepted, they have to attend.

The only way families can decline an Early Decision offer is if the financial aid package provided by the college is not sufficient.

Colleges often do not provide families with financial aid information until Early Decision offers come in. That means if financial aid is a major contributor to your college decision, applying Early Decision can be a bit of a gamble. Learn more about how to apply for financial aid in the previous episode of the College Radar Podcast.

What are the deadlines to apply Early Decision?

Similarly to Early Action, students submit their Early Decision applications typically by November 1st or 15th.

Students hear back from colleges by mid-December to February. However, if students are accepted Early Decision, they must withdraw all other applications and submit their deposit to the college.