Early Decision (ED)

Definition

The term early decision refers to an admissions process that allows students to submit an application to a college or university by November 1, which becomes a binding agreement if the student is admitted.  When a student applies for early decision (ED), they are notified of the school's admission decision mid-December instead of the April 1 timeframe.

Explanation

If a college or university supports an early decision program, students applying for admission to that institution will be notified by mid-December whether or not they've been accepted for enrollment.  These programs effectively accelerate the college application deadline to November 1 (from January 1), and the admission notification timeframe to mid-December (from April 1).

Unlike early action programs, early decision is a binding agreement, and the student is required to enroll in that college or university if offered admission.  In total, there are three possible outcomes when a student applies under early decision:

  • Admitted:  the admissions department decides to admit the student.  Under the terms and conditions of the ED agreement, the student is required to enroll in that college or university.
  • Deferred:  the admissions department decides to defer their decision.  The student's application would be reconsidered for admission along with those applications received for the school's "normal" process and timeline.
  • Rejected:  the admissions department decides not to admit the student.  Additionally, the student's application will not be reconsidered for admission along with those applications received for the school's "normal" process and timeline.

Students are typically released from the early decision requirement to enroll if they are not admitted by mid-December.

Early decision programs remove the stress associated with the college admissions process; allowing students to start their planning activities sooner.  The disadvantage of these programs is the competition; the credentials of the candidates applying for early decision are stronger.  Since students are required to enroll under early decision programs, it's also not possible to compare offers of financial aid packages from other colleges.

Related Terms

entrance counseling, adult education program, apprenticeship, Career and Technical Education, concurrent enrollment, deferred admission, distance learning, early action, academic letter of recommendation, official transcript, FERPA