The 5 Top Considerations for Early Decision and Early Action Success

College Applications: Early Action v.s Early Decision

ED vs EA












College applications can be a frenzied process. Parents are worried about their student’s future. Students are worried about hearing back from that dream school. Those of you with a student who is already set on a particular school may have come across the terms ‘early action’ or ‘early decision’. These terms are deceivingly similar. But, there is a huge difference in each. It is very important that families know what kind of contract they are signing when considering these application tactics. This will literally define your student’s future.

To compound this confusing problem, many families forget to ask their college planner about the benefits and limitations of these application tools. In this post, we cover two core components of the Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) process. Understanding these two terms is critical for your planning strategies. Specifically, utilizing financial positioning and a college’s acceptance rates.

Financial Positioning

You must know your financial position before beginning the college application process. This is even more important as you review using EA or ED. By knowing your financial position beforehand, you are able to accurately estimate a potential aid offer. Combining that with the higher acceptance rates usually produced by the EA / ED strategy can create an admissions win for the family. The pitfall of this strategy comes without a proper plan. If your family does not do their homework, then committing to a school too soon can be a disaster. You must know what kind of aid you can get, how your financial package will look, and if your family can really afford this school. All of this before earlier application deadlines. Sounds a little scary, right? Let’s break down the terms so you have a better idea of what your student will be getting into.

Early Decision Applications

ED programs are usually binding. This means applicants commit that they will attend that school if accepted. One advantage is applying to a highly-selective school that admits 26 to 50 percent of students from the early admissions pool. This can be a great technique for a student with a dream school and an application that may be overlooked in a larger pool.

However, an obvious drawback is that the offer is binding. If accepted, you must remove all applications from other institutions. Our planning team has found that ED eliminates your ability to appeal financial aid offers. If you’re not eligible for financial aid  this almost always guarantees you will pay full sticker price for tuition. Why is this the case? Because by applying early decision, your student is saying, “this college is my first, and only choice! I won’t go anywhere else if accepted.” Biggest mistakes with early decision tend to come from families who are unaware how a college views their expected family contribution (EFC), as well as not researching to ensure the school is a social and academic fit.


Early Action Applications

EA programs don’t require a commitment with acceptance. Thankfully, many colleges offer this as an alternative to the strict policy of early decision. Our team believe that the more flexibility, the better overall outcome for a student’s future. Your family will have more time to select a college that is an academic, social, and financial fit for your child. At Peachtree College Planning, we tend to support this strategy overall. Especially, if your student has the right candidate profile and financial positioning in place. Both parents and students can have peace of mind if accepted and it allows time to appeal financial aid awards. Since EA is non-binding, students are still free to apply and explore to other schools.

Our team does want to note single choice early action (SCEA), though. This term means that your student can only apply with one EA application. This practice is most common at elite schools.



While EA is more flexible, it won’t necessarily equal the best plan.  In order to know exactly what you’re heading into, your family should have a firm plan in place. This means knowing your financial position well in advance and deciding if using EA or ED can be an advantage. No matter what your situation, your child deserves to go to the college that will suite them socially, academically, and financially. Still seem daunting? Get in touch with us and our college planning team will place your family on the path to success!

Early action or early decision flow chart

Need to do some more research before meeting up with us?

Check out these awesome resources!

College Board

Princeton Review



About the author 

Stuart Canzeri

Stuart Canzeri is a well-respected professional in the world of college funding and financial planning. He's known as the "College Financial Guy" on the internet, where he's helped countless families save significant money on college costs. With more than 20 years of experience in the field, he's become an expert in investment, tax planning, and overall financial management.

Stuart has a strong educational background, which includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Mercer University. These credentials allow him to effectively work with various clients, including business owners and corporate executives.


Applying to College, College Application Process, College Plan, Early Action, Early Decision

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