Thinking about Applying Early Decision? Here’s Everything You Need to Know about How ED Works


Around 450 colleges have Early Decision. For  When you’re certain about where you want to go and wanting to avoid the added stress of waiting for an admissions decision, applying ED might be the way to go. Find out more about ED below.

Basic rules for Early Decision

Early Decision is binding -- meaning “a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college.” 

Generally, the deadline for Early Decision is sometime in November, usually on the earlier side. If you are planning on applying for ED, make sure you start your application sooner rather than later. With all of your school and extracurricular responsibilities, you’ll want to get ahead and stay on top of the deadline, instead of procrastinating until mid-October. 

Keep in mind that students may only apply to one college through ED. You should not apply to more than one college through early decision. Upon acceptance, students must attend the selected college. After being admitted, students must withdraw their regular decision applications from any other college where they’ve applied.  


Should you apply ED?

If you are 100% positive that this one college is your top choice, you may want to consider applying ED. By applying ED, you’re demonstrating just how serious and excited you are about that one specific school. Many students attempt early decision admissions in hopes to avoid the stress of waiting. With ED, you’ll usually hear back around December - compared to as late as April for regular or rolling admissions. 

“Qualified ED applicants can sometimes gain an advantage because they are expressing the strongest possible interest in the university” -- US NEWS

Make sure you have researched colleges thoroughly before deciding to apply ED. Take a look at similar schools and programs and understand the implications of applying ED. Make sure you have no doubts about this specific school. 

Which colleges have ED

Here are a few of the colleges that offer Early Decision (see full list at College Admissions Strategies):

  • California State University Sacramento

  • Loyola Marymount University

  • Sacred Heart University

  • Quinnipiac University

  • Lake Forest College

  • DePauw University

  • Johns Hopkins University

  • Babson College

  • Northeastern University

  • Nebraska Wesleyan University

  • Columbia University

  • Syracuse University

  • Carnegie Mellon University

  • Rice University


Typical admission rates for those who apply ED

On average, Ivy Leagues with Early Decision accepted about 18% of applicants. According to Inside Higher Ed, “the numbers announced by colleges in December showed that many of the most competitive institutions are admitting what are likely to make up more than half of their freshman classes early.” Based on these findings, qualified students who apply early decision may have an advantage in the admissions process. 

Final Thoughts Before You Decide 

Applying to multiple schools means multiple essays and application fees. When you’re accepted to your Early Decision school, you no longer have to worry about that, which is definitely a perk to keep in mind. However, applying ED will prevent you from being able to compare financial aid packages across schools, so you may have gotten a better package elsewhere. Whatever you decide, make sure you understand your options before applying Early Decision.