Counselor at CURIO Education
The primary difference between Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) is that ED is binding if accepted by the school of choice whereas EA enables students to receive decisions usually around December or January, but can wait until May 1 of their senior year to decide.
For ED and EA, students will get their decisions earlier than Regular Decision (RD) applicants. As such, if students receive offers earlier on, it may reduce the stress and anxiety of waiting for college decisions in the latter half of senior year.
Students will have a higher chance of getting into schools through EA and ED rounds. This is because there are not as many students who are ready to apply in this timeframe, as such, competition is not as stiff compared to RD rounds.
For ED, students need to be sure that this is their college of choice. Students would not be able to change their minds if accepted, meaning they cannot explore their full range of options later on.
For EA and ED, students have less time to get their application materials ready. Students will need to plan ahead and ensure academics, as well as essays, are in tip-top shape about 4 months earlier compared to RD applicants.
I feel EAs are the most advantageous for international students. Where possible, I have my students EA to schools that offer it. Of course, this is dependent on where their testing and essay quality is at – if they are at a level that is within the 50th to 75th percentile (or above) for a school’s standardized testing averages, and their essays tell a compelling story of their choice, I would advise EA. If the application materials are not at their best yet, then I advise students to apply RD to have more time to increase their testing scores and better polish their essays.
I advise using EDs sparingly. Many students and families I work with are still new to the idea of college fit, and primarily consider rankings when looking at schools to apply to. As such, I usually only advise students who are sure they know their dream college well and have shown evidence of such in the time I have worked with them to apply using ED.