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If you’re a high school senior, you’re probably neck deep in work already. On top of your regular reading and homework, you also have college essays to write, applications to fill out, and FAFSA®s to file, not to mention dealing with the stress of actually thinking about choosing a college. That is, of course, unless you know exactly where you want to go.

If that sounds like you, you’re likely considering applying for early decision, if your college or university of choice offers that as an option. They may also offer early action, which is totally different. So what separates the two?

Early action and early decision are both options where your college or university will inform you of your admission status during the wintertime. Your acceptance or rejection letter will come in the mail or by email sometime from December to February. Early action and early decision also make other admission decisions possible, such as deferment. If you apply early and get deferred, it means the school isn’t ready to make a decision based on your application and want you to reapply. Bulk up your resume and send an updated transcript of your grades for regular admission to better your chances of getting in. Early decision and early action are basically the same thing, except for one major difference: early decision is binding.

This means if you are accepted, you are legally bound to attend that college or university in the fall. You should only apply ED if you’re 100% confident about wanting to go to that school. If you have that one dream school you’ve been dying to go to for years, then early decision is the option for you.

Early action, on the other hand, is not binding. This means that if you receive an acceptance letter, your options are still open, but you can move forward with your college decision process with confidence, knowing that you’ve already been already accepted somewhere.

Regardless of how you choose to apply to college, Frank wishes you well as you navigate this exciting chapter in your life!

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.