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Early decision plans are binding—students accepted as early decision applicants must attend the college.

Early action plans are nonbinding—students get an early response to their application but don’t have to commit to the college until the standard reply date of May 1.

Here are some details about each option:

Early decision plans:

  • Students can apply to only one early decision college.
  • If the college accepts a student and offers them enough financial aid, they must go to that college. That's why these plans are referred to as "binding."
  • Some colleges have two early deadlines, called "early decision deadline I" and "early decision deadline II." They work the same way, but the second deadline gives students more time to decide whether to apply early.
  • Although students may apply to other colleges through the regular admission process, they must withdraw all other applications if they’re accepted by this college.

Early action plans:

  • Students can apply to more than one early action college.
  • If they're accepted, they can say yes right away or wait until spring to decide.
  • They can also decline the offer.