Tip from Diana: Early Action vs. Early Decision

Diana GerberichHi! My name is Diana and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College. Originally from Massachusetts, I can’t help but say that going to school near Boston is a great pleasure. When I am not in the library studying, I enjoy playing the baritone saxophone in the Harvard Monday Jazz Band and taking walks by the Charles River. I also enjoy spreading the joy of music to hospitals and nursing homes in the Boston area through one of Harvard’s community service organizations, MIHNUET.

The time between the deadline to submit college applications and the deadline for colleges to send out admission letters is arguably the longest three months of your life. All of your essays are completed and recommendations submitted so it becomes a waiting game. Over the subsequent weeks you are more responsive to the email alerts on your phone and you actually take note of the time that the mailman visits your residence. These are all signs that you are eagerly awaiting a decision that will impact your entire future. Believe it or not, it is in fact possible to ease the anxiety during this period with a slightly modified approach to college applications. What I would like to discuss today is how to take advantage of early action verses early decision.

Both early action and early decision will allow you to receive a college letter early, whether it be an acceptance, rejection, or deferral. Most of these letters are received by mid-December at the latest. Early action differs from early decision because early decision is a binding decision. By applying early decision to a college, you are saying that if you get accepted you will automatically commit to attending. Because of this agreement, you will only be able to apply to one college early decision if you choose to do so. Early action, on the other hand, is a non-binding decision. If you apply early action and you are accepted, you are not obligated to actually attend that college and you do not have to give an answer until the spring. This is the beauty of early action. You receive an admission letter early, but you do not have to commit or decline until after you receive all of your admission decisions.

Most colleges have early decision but only some colleges have early action. My advice is to apply to at least one college early action if possible. If you get an acceptance letter early, then you already have one college in hand and it takes a lot of pressure off for the rest of the admission letters. The three month wait is a lot less stressful. If you are rejected, then it allows you to reevaluate your other college choices and make some adjustments before the final deadline. This might mean adding a new safety school. Either way, you will almost always be better off by receiving at least one letter early. As previously mentioned, not all colleges have early action but if one of your colleges does, I urge you to consider applying early action to ease a lot of tension and make the wait a lot less painful. Good luck and I wish you the best!

Diana is a tutor at HSA Tutoring

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