College Recruiting FAQ: Early Action vs. Early Decision

The Recruiting Sports Network explains the differences between early action and early decision when applying to a college or university.

Early Action vs. Early Decision

During the recruiting or college selection process, a student-athlete may consider applying to colleges under either early action or early decision. It's important to understand the differences between these two applications and their requirements.

Early Decision

Early decision is a binding application, meaning you must commit to the school if you are accepted. You typically apply in the fall of your senior year of high school. Your chances of being admitted to your early decision school are stronger if your academic record matches or exceeds the school's standards and you are a priority recruit. If you are not admitted or you are outright rejected through early decision, you may be deferred for reconsideration for admission during a later round in the process.

You are typically only permitted to apply early decision to one school.

With early decision, you commit to attend without receiving or assessing an official financial aid offer from the school. Thus, you should have done your homework on a school before deciding to apply early decision. You should be sure the coaches are committed to you and that you have a scholarship offer on the table or you can afford to attend the school if you don't receive a scholarship. If you are uncertain in either of these areas, it is best to hold off on applying early decision.

Early Action

Early action is not binding, meaning you are not obligated to attend the school if you are accepted. You are permitted to apply early action to multiple schools, even if you've applied early decision to another school. The deadline for early action also usually occurs in late fall. Keep in mind, however, that if you are accepted to both an early decision and an early action school, you must commit to the early decision school.

With early action, if you are not accepted in the first round, you can still be considered through the general application deadline process. You will typically have more time before you are required to commit to a school and receive financial aid packages from all the schools that have accepted you. Thus, you will have time to compare and assess the relative merits of each school.

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