What’s “Early Decision”

& Is This Admissions Plan Right for You?

Greetings Students and Families!
Whether you’re a senior ’22 in the middle of college applications working on your college essays, or a junior ’23 getting ready to think about “Colleges and Majors That Fit You”, the cost of a college education is most certainly on your mind. This newsletter focuses on a number of topics that relate both directly and indirectly to the cost of a college education.
Seniors ’22– the College Application clock is winding down for those interested in ED/EA. If you haven’t yet started your college applications and essays or finalized your balanced college list– — all of these tasks should become a priority. Stress free and Strategic College Admissions Planning:

But what about all the hype over Early Decision?


So, let’s answer the important question:
The intent is simple- Early Decision is designed for students who are convinced that the university is the perfect fit (in all respects-academic, social and financial) and the college is your top choice!
But buyer beware….
If you’ve already visited campus having spent a reasonable amount of time speaking with faculty and students and have given an equivalent level of consideration to at least one or two comparable universities, ED can be a wise educational decision.
BUT…..First-impression bias is dangerous. If you fall in love with the one and only campus you visit- ED is NOT the way to approach your college planning and college admissions process. Please visit an alternative and compare your options.
I know what you’re thinking– we are in the middle of a pandemic and campus visits have been virtually (pun-intended) precluded.  Before you take a leap of faith- please follow some of my earlier advice:
1) connecting to a LIVE INTERACTIVE Zoom virtual visit where Q&A occurs
2) connect with currently enrolled students on social media – you can find engaged current students who want to talk with you about their campus
3) reach out to the current undergraduate academic advisor in your intended major and ask to connect with currently enrolled students
4) connect to students in potential clubs you might join on campus.
5) Ask me for some current student ambassadors- my former clients LOVE to talk about their current college experience with prospectives!
Applying ED is not a decision to be made lightly, and as noted, pleased don’t be misled or misguided by those lists of acceptance rates leading you to believe that applying ED doubles your chances of an acceptance. If your college application doesn’t demonstrate well-informed reasons for your choice – you may be deferred to the regular application pool or rejected outright.
RAFFLE TICKET_ NO NO No!! That’s not the point!
I don’t recommend using your ED “raffle ticket” on a “match” choice-you only have one ED (read on – see below)-after looking at your balanced list of reach, match and safety colleges-ED can be a great college admissions strategy and one best used for your top choice if it’s a “reach” institution”. Confused – let’s have a conversation- click to connect with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD – 30+ years experience serving clients Nationwide in all majors.
Early Decision requires you to (more than just any regular decision applicant) clearly and unequivocally convey demonstrated interest, this is an important part of the college admissions and college application process.






One of the most significant differences between submitting a college application thru the ED, EA and RD options is simply timing- timing of when the application is due and the timing of the notification of the college admissions decision.
Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) are submitted months ahead of the Regular Decision (RD) application and admissions decision notification dates are typically December 1 to December 15 in contrast to RD notification March 1 to April 1. Each college sets its own dates- these aren’t universal nor specific to the Common Application. Check check and check again.
Why Do Colleges Admit Legacy Students?
While universities aim to form a well-balanced freshman class across majors, geography, gender and a host of socio-economic factors , universities do track their acceptance rates and acceptance-yields and aim to realize objectives (just like any organization).
College admissions officers aim to admit qualified students who will accept an offer of admission. Applying as a legacy student signals demonstrated interest. Whether, it makes you uncomfortable or not, Colleges and universities are concerned about alumni engagement and alumni donations, and offering admission to qualified children of alumni is one way to accomplish these goals.


As most students already know, ED has one important distinction- the decision is binding. By submitting your ED application if accepted, you agree to enroll. To be released from your “college acceptance contract” you will need to demonstrate that enrolling presents a financial hardship for your family. It’s unethical to test-the-waters-apply, receive and acceptance and falsely decline the offer because you changed your mind.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
In contrast, Early Action is non-binding and offers students information about their acceptance much earlier than regular decision. I encourage students to apply Early Action to any college offering this option because doing so indicates the college is one of your top choices. This is another great reason to begin your college planning early-building a college plan to take steps towards realizing your educational goals, including preparing for all the components needed to submit a complete college application.

What about Restricted Early Action?

Restricted Early Action is a bit more complicated. Let’s look at Harvard and Stanford University policies on Restricted Early Action to understand the complicated interactions on “restrictions” in any R-EA policy.
“Applying to Harvard under the Restrictive Early Action program empowers you to make a college choice early. Early applicants apply by November 1 and hear from us by mid-December.
If your record and accomplishments have been consistently strong over time, Early Action may be an attractive choice. You don’t have to commit to coming to Harvard, but you will learn earlier if it is an option for you.
Early Action is a non-binding early program, meaning that if you are admitted you are not obligated to enroll. If you apply to Harvard under our Early Action program, you may also apply at the same time to any public college/university or to foreign universities but you are restricted from applying to other private universities’ Early Action and Early Decision programs.
You have the flexibility and freedom to apply to other institutions during the regular decision round, and you have until May 1 to compare your admission and financial aid offers.”
“We evaluate applications in the same way whether you apply early or regular. We do not give an advantage to early applications, so we recommend you apply when you feel your application is ready.
Restrictive Early Action is Stanford’s non-binding early application option.
Restrictive Early Action Policy
  • If you apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private college/university under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan.
  • In addition, you may not apply to any public university under an early binding plan, such as Early Decision.
  • If you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action, you may apply to other colleges and universities under their Regular Decision plan.
  • If you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action and your application is deferred, you may apply to another college’s Early Decision II plan.
You may simultaneously apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action and to the following:
  • any public college/university with a non-binding early application plan or early application deadline.
  • any college/university with a non-binding rolling admission process.
  • any foreign college/university with a non-binding application plan on any schedule.
  • any college/university with an early deadline for a scholarship or special academic program, as long as:
  1. the decision is non-binding; and
  2. in order to be considered for the scholarship or program, the student must apply in the early round or by an early deadline.”
Understanding Restricted Early Action
There are many interesting combinations possible, and a sequence of potential application dates. For example, a student might submit to a restricted EA plan – slightly more limiting and need to carefully coordinate with other ED options. It’s very important to be crystal clear about your reasons for applying and check all ED and EA policies for any applicable policies that may apply to your college choices. It’s possible to apply to one REA and one ED – but you must read the actual “restrictions” and comply.
But more importantly- is your college application ready? Did you have sufficient time to be thoughtful about the content of your essays and activities inputs? A rushed application is unwise and runs the risk of not being your best presentation of your strengths and interests.
If your grades are on an upward trend, a student may be better served by waiting to submit under a later regular admissions decision option allowing a stronger transcript to be provided as part of your college application and potentially resulting in a more favorable college admissions outcome.


Although there’s clearly a huge advantage to having an earlier notification many months sooner, there are some drawbacks that shouldn’t be ignored. Consult your college counselor to discuss and explore your best option.
Given the Binding commitment to enroll, there’s no opportunity to compare financial aid packages across colleges nor is chance to leverage or negotiate your financial aid package.   That said, by speaking with an experienced college advisor, you can determine the college’s reputation for providing financial aid that meets students’ unmet need. Applying to a university under an ED plan when that college has a less than stellar track record of offering financial aid should be avoided if you require financial aid to attend. Likewise, if you need to negotiate and plan to leverage higher financial offers, ED isn’t a suitable option either.
Size of Financial Aid Awards.
The average financial aid package to ED / EA students is smaller in aggregate data on the size of packages for the regular applicant pool at the same university. Yet, the ED sample is skewed towards wealthier families. Universities DO NOT award smaller financial aid to ED applicants – your award is based on your EFC and it’s simply a myth. In fact, colleges consider you a highly qualified applicant and will attempt to go the extra mile to have you attend once accepted. Reality, there’s still more financial aid available to ED applicants, because the university hasn’t yet overextended the available grant money. Keep in mind, announcement of scholarship recipients isn’t generally announced until the entire applicant pool has been reviewed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to college applications and the college admissions process. For some students, Early Decision may be a great option and for others, it’s probably something to scroll past.
While Early Decision isn’t for everyone, now that you know more about how Early Decision works, please reach out to explore your college admissions plan and build a college application strategy to align with your educational goals.
 I’ve debunked the myths about the unavailability of financial aid for ED applicants. You can rest assured, if you are a qualified applicant and a college is truly and unequivocally your first choice, there will be no less of a financial aid package provided to you as an Early Decision (ED) vs. Regular applicant.
The risk you do run however of applying as an ED applicant is missing an opportunity to leverage and negotiate any financial aid package offer against comparable financial aid packages. If your family is eligible for financial aid, then ED may not be your best approach. If your family isn’t applying for financial aid, and the cost of a clear first choice “Reach” college is on your radar, ED is a great college admissions strategy. I don’t recommend using your ED “raffle ticket” on a “match” campus. Confused – let’s have a conversation.
Public Within-State Tuition
Private Out-of-State
Whether you reside in Florida with access to the Bright Futures plan, or have saved for your state’s tuition program within your state’s plan -including the NY 529 plan, Colorado Plan, or California State Tuition plan, every family faces choices about how to determine if the state public flagship university is the best “fit” compared to a more costly pricey institution. Fit – again is based on academic, social and financial considerations. This is why building a COLLEGE PLAN early is essential –doing so increases your chances of a college acceptance in more selective colleges and will better position you for scholarships overall. Scholarship funds are provided to attract quality students regardless of financial need.
Most public universities are large institutions- many provide an outstanding education. But your student’s academic profile may not be strong enough for acceptance to the flagship or even a few other public universities within your state. Maybe your student isn’t interested in attending and wants to leave the area. Maybe your student isn’t well-served by attending a larger (20,000+) campus.
Every family has to answer a few basic questions and in my subsequent newsletter, I’ll also be addressing this difficult issues not only from the financial perspective- but the wider academic issues of public vs. private education.
  • If the best available within-state public institution our student will likely gain an acceptance to costs “X” dollars — how much more can we afford and are willing to pay if there are more selective and stronger educational options available at $ x+ y?  For example, your student can be accepted to SUNY Binghamton, UCLA or the University of Florida – but could attend an Ivy League or other highly selective and outstanding university.  How much will / can your family invest in this option? The early you’ve build your college plan- the more likely scholarships will become available to make this possibility a reality.
  • How much less selective or a comparable college relative to our state’s public institution might be on the radar if there were financial aid/scholarships available? Maybe our state public institution isn’t a good social or academic fit–how much will /can we afford or how much might be needed to make comparable or other institutions viable choices. Let’s discuss your situation and find the best fit for your family!
Your plan should always be one filled with joyous opportunities for discovery and independence. Please don’t march thru high school — but instead find your path and embrace it- you are unique and your best plan for success is one that leverages your strengths and passions.
What’s your plan?
Are you on target?
Don’t follow the crowd! Certainly don’t overextend or leave questions unanswered – reach out!
 Students with a passion are more successful as undergraduates and during the college admissions process.
It is indeed never too early to begin Educational and College Admissions Planning!
College Admissions Planning- Start Early- Increase Your Chances of College Acceptance
Does your student have an Educational & College Admissions Plan? On Target?
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Personalized Educational & College Admissions Services
South Florida 561.509.0021
Boulder/Denver 720.737.9944
Nationwide Online 833.MY.ESSAY
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