Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision U.S. University Applications – Understanding the Differences

Having the right information at the right time is key to everything in life,  especially when applying for a higher education program in the U.S. The first step to understanding the U.S. application process is knowing when to apply. U.S. University Applications fall into three categories. These are  Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision.  Let’s break it down further to understand what these terms mean for your U.S. universityuniversity application dream.

Early Decision

Early Decision Applications to U.S. Universities are called so because the univeritiy’s acceptance decision on these is made early. So if you want to apply to a U.S. university session beginning in the fall of 2017 (September), your Early Decision application must be completed by 01 November 2016. Your acceptance to the program will be known by December 2016.

The advantage of an Early Decision application is that if you aren’t accepted, you still have enough time to apply to other U.S. universities.

IMPORTANT:  While an Early Decision application lets you know your fate sooner, it’s advisable to apply under this option only if you are confident that ‘this is the university and course’ of your choice. Firstly, you are only allowed to apply for Early Decision to one university. Secondly, Early Decision applications are binding, which means that if your application is accepted, you must enroll in that program.

Failing to enroll at a U.S. university that has accepted your U.S. Early Decision application will adversely affect your chances of admission to other U.S. Universities.

Early Action

Unlike Early Decision (ED), an Early Action (EA) application is not binding. So if you are sure of the school you want to attend but want to keep your options open, this is the plan for you.

The deadlines for Early Action applications vary but generally fall in November. You will hear your fate by the end of December but will have until May (the following year) to make your choice from the universities where you are accepted. Meanwhile, ensure that you are ready with your regular admission applications to other universities.

Applying for Early Decision or Early Action requires that you thoroughly research the universities that offer these options. Approximately 450 universities offer an Early Decision or Early Action application option, and some have both. Also, the specifics of each ED and EA programs vary from one university to another.

Before you decide to submit an ED or EA application to a university, you should be aware of how your academic and other credentials stack up against the university’s admission requirements. While only a small percentage of university applicants choose the ED / EA route, the competition can be intense because you are competing against other highly-focused candidates who have probably done everything they can to secure an ED or EA admission.

Regular Decision

A Regular Decision application is how most applicants to U.S. universities prefer to handle their admission applications. You can apply to as many universities as you want and wait to see which accept you. Then you can choose your best option. Regular Decision application deadlines fall anywhere between November to March, and you generally have until May to accept or decline the offers received.

This chart summarizes the basics of application decision options:

Application Deadlines Admission Decision Received Early Is the Decision Binding Can You Submit a Similar Application to Other Schools? By When Do You Need to Confirm Acceptance of Offer?
Early Decision By Nov Yes Yes No  Offer is automatically accepted
Early Action By Nov Yes No Yes May-01
Regular Decision Between Nov- March No No Yes May-01


Understanding the U.S. university application process may seem as challenging as swimming upstream in a strong river when you have just learned how to swim! But don’t worry. That’s why we are here. Over the next few months, we are going to break down the U.S. university application process into easy understandable steps to help you successfully steer through the entire gamut of information on U.S. universities,, courses, and application guidelines.

The aim is to get you in the U.S. university program of your choice, at a time that’s just right for you.

So let’s begin today – you can contact us by email, phone or WeChat.