The Difference Between Early Decision and Early Action

Written by Nell McCormack Abom, Host Smart Talk TV | Nov 2, 2009 6:03 PM

All ED and most EA opportunities involve ethical commitments from the students who choose either option. For example, you may not apply ED to more than one school at a time. Schools that offer ED expect that, while you might simultaneously apply Regular Decision to other schools, you will withdraw those applications if you are accepted ED. You cannot allow other applications to remain active “just to see what will happen.” It is possible, however, to activate a second ED application at another school if your initial ED application is either deferred or denied.

Moreover, some colleges that offer EA will stipulate that you may only apply EA to one school. Such options are regarded as “single choice” or “restrictive EA.” In those cases, schools don’t want you “going out with more than one college at a time.”

Here’s the bottom line. Colleges that offer ED and EA programs are prone to sharing lists of accepted ED/EA students with their peer institutions. The understanding is that those schools will honor the ED/EA relationships that have been established. It is important, then, that you make sure you are certain of your feelings about a possible ED/EA school and you are sure you understand the rules surrounding those options by the schools that offer them.


Peter Van Buskirk is an author, consultant, speaker and creator of the Best College Fit™ Resources. Visit to learn more about Peter and his student-centered approach to college planning.

Published in Life After 12th Grade

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