How Will You Apply to College?

Applying to college has changed dramatically the past 15 years. In addition to no longer using paper applications, colleges have created different application decisions and deadlines.

Early Decision (ED)

Early Decision is a binding agreement between the student, parents, school counselor and college. The contract stipulates that if offered admission, the student will withdraw all other applications and accept admission into that school.

A student would apply ED to a college if they knew it was their absolute top choice, especially at a school in which they might not be the strongest applicant. The ED applicant pool is much smaller than the Regular Decision pool. This allows for students to be compared with a fewer number of applicants, as only ED applications are compared, thus increasing a student’s chance of admission. It can hurt a student if the student does not stand out amongst other applicants.

Early Action (EA)

This application deadline allows students to apply earlier to a particular college/university, usually on the first of November. In return, colleges agree to act on their application earlier, by the end of the calendar year. This is a plus for students because they will learn earlier if they are accepted to college. If denied or deferred, this provides additional time to reassess their college applications. As with ED, schools only compare EA applications when admitting students. Colleges again, prefer the EA process because they are able to accept a particular amount of students which will many times increase the probability of students accepting admission.

Restrictive/Single Choice Early Action

This is a newer entry into the college application process, generally seen in a highly selective college. This application option will allow students to apply ‘early’ to one college. The difference between this option and ED is that there is no binding acceptance agreement. Students ethically agree not to apply ED or EA to other colleges, in hopes of an early acceptance from a highly selective college. Once a student receives notification, they are free to apply to other colleges.

Regular Decision (RD)

This is the standard option for a student application. Some schools will offer a ‘rolling admissions’ option in RD. This means that schools will notify students days or weeks upon receiving a completed application. Other schools will notify students in the applicant pool on one date later in the application process (around March or April 1st).

TIPS: Always remember to pay attention to deadlines. Students should also pay attention to all aspects of their application files to ensure they are complete, such as letters of recommendations, essay supplements, fees, etc… Missing a deadline or a component of your file might mean missing out on an opportunity to attend the school of your choice.

There are more pluses and minuses to the application processes, contact us to learn which option is best for you.

Thomas Jaworski is the lead consultant of Quest College Consulting. He is an Independent College Counselor with over ten years experience in the college admission process as an Certified Illinois Teacher (Type 09) and Counselor (Type 73) while also a member of IECA and NACAC. For more information, you can visit his website at or email him at Follow him on Twitter @Tom_QuestCC or on Facebook at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *