Early admission has become an increasingly popular choice for students, and it is easy to understand why. Using an early admissions plan is a great way to get the stress of college applications out of the way, and receive your admissions decision before the New Year. The applicant pool at this stage tends to be smaller, meaning that there is often an improved chance of admission. Furthermore, by applying early, you are demonstrating enthusiasm and commitment to attending a particular school, something admissions officers love to see.

Before proceeding with an early application, however, students need to understand that not all early admissions plans are created equal. A single school can often offer several early admission plans from which applicants can choose, while others, like the University of Southern California, eschew early admissions altogether.

Read on to learn more about all the different application options.

Early Admission:

1. Early Decision I

The Early Decision I deadline falls on or around November 1 and an admissions decision is usually received by the third week of December. At this point, you will be accepted, denied or deferred to the Regular Decision applicant pool.
The most important thing to remember about Early Decision I is that it is binding, meaning that if you get in, you must attend the school. While you may only apply to one school Early Decision I, you may simultaneously apply to Early Action programs.

2. Early Action I

Like Early Decision I, you will submit an Early Action I application on November 1 and hear back in December. The three outcomes are acceptance, rejection, and deferral until the spring.
The key difference between Early Decision I and Early Action I, then, is that Early Action is non-binding. This means that should you be accepted in December, you will have until the May 1 reply date to make a decision about whether or not to attend. You may simultaneously apply to other Early Decision and/or Early Action programs.

3. Single-Choice Early Action / Restricted Early Action

Single-Choice Early Action functions in exactly the same way as Early Action I, except for one key difference. If applying Single-Choice Early Action to a school, you may not apply to any other Early Decision or Early Action programs.

4. Early Decision II

Early Decision II functions in exactly the same way as Early Decision I, except for the fact that it has a later application deadline. The exact deadline for ED II varies from school to school, but it generally falls between Early Decision I and Regular Decision OR on the same date as the Regular Decision deadline. Like other early admissions plans, notifications are usually received within six to eight weeks.

5. Early Action II

Early Action II functions in exactly the same way as Early Decision I, except of the fact that it has a later application deadline. The exact deadline for EA II varies from school to school, but it generally falls between Early Action I and Regular Decision OR on the same date as the Regular Decision deadline. Like other early admissions plans, notifications are usually received within six to eight weeks.

Regular Admissions

Application deadlines for regular admissions generally fall in January or February. This gives applicants a little more breathing room to craft their essays, boost their grades or even retake standardized tests. The three possible outcomes for an RD application are acceptance, rejection, or, depending on the school, deferred acceptance or wait listing.
Regular decision admissions are not binding. Students may apply to as many schools they like and choose freely among them ahead of the May 1 reply date. This option offers students the most flexibility, but RD is also the most competitive admissions round since it fields the bulk of applicants.

Rolling Admissions

Schools with a rolling admissions policy do not have a fixed application deadline or admissions notification date. Instead, the college will review applications throughout the school year in the order that they are received, and generally give you a decision about four to five weeks after receiving the application. There is a significant advantage to applying early, because the college will stop accepting applications as soon as it fills all of the seats in the incoming class.
With so many different admission plans on offer, make sure to think long and hard before committing – particularly to any binding programs.

If you’ve gotten to grips with the various choices available, but are unsure of whether early admission is right for you, make sure to check back for a new post.