Regular Decision Versus Early Decision – Debunked!

Navigating college lists, decisions, and application deadlines, students encounter two crucial terms: Early Decision (ED) and Regular Decision (RD). Knowing the difference between the two and applying in one or both cycles can determine college admissions and acceptances.

Without a doubt, all college applications, Early or Regular Decision, stir up a cocktail of emotions, with students vacillating between joy and anxiety. Fear not. We are here to help you understand the nitty-gritty details of both cycles so you can get through application season without added stress or worry.

Regular Decision: What is it?

Regular Decision is the most popular application cycle favored by high schoolers. It gives you options to explore, ample time to think, and compare colleges with a particularity that suits yourrequirements. It allows you the luxury of time and options. So, no rush. No pressure.

Pros of Regular Decision
  1. Availability: All universities in the United States have adopted RD as a universal application cycle. From prestigious Ivy Leagues to inventive liberal arts colleges, all schools offer Regular Decision.
  2. Time: Acceptances usually get released between mid-March and the first week of April. Commonly, May 1 is when the deposit for a student’s final university choice is due. This gives students time to deliberate on the cost, best fit, location, and all the other good stuff!
  3. Options: Applying in the Regular Decision round means you aren’t limited to one choice! This is only offered during the RD cycle. All applicants can keep their college options open until the last minute before committing.
  4. Opportunity: Last but not least, RD gives students opportunities to add that last adrenaline-packed punch to bolster their application in senior year. Regular Decision applications include first-semester senior-year reports, allowing applicants to compensate for any prior hiccups.
Cons of Regular Decision
  1. Competition: Regular Decision usually entails lower acceptance rates. Increasingly, universities have started admitting more Early Decision/Action applicants, decreasing the seats available for students applying during the RD cycle.
  2. Interest: As competition increases, the ability to showcase demonstrated interest in a university decreases. Therefore, colleges increasingly consider students applying in Early Decision/Action cycles to be more committed than an RD applicant.
Early Decision: What is it?

Several private and select colleges offer Early Decision. ED has three distinct characteristics: a fealty-sworn binding commitment, an unshakeable position of the college as your top choice, and a more immediate application deadline (commonly falling in the first week of November).

Pros of Early Decision
  1. Interest: Early Decision is the Trojan horse that conveys ‘commitment’ and ‘top choice’ to admission officers. Consequently, colleges consider Early Decision applications one of the strongest indicators of a student’s commitment and interest.
  2. Acceptances: Early Decision rounds usually have higher acceptance rates than RD applications due to demonstrated interest. More recently, college admission counselors have also noticed a spike in universities admitting nearly half of their classes from the Early Decision pool. So, if you have your sights set on The One, this is your time to shine.
Cons of Early Decision
  1. Binding: When you find The One, you must commit. And colleges expect no less. Colleges demand that students strictly abide by Early Decision acceptances. That means that when a student receives an ED acceptance, the applicant must withdraw all other applications and enroll in the college shortly after receiving an acceptance.
  2. Commitment: Another disadvantage to remember is that an ED application can easily backfire if you are uncertain or do not have a top choice. It is notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to get out of an Early Decision agreement. So do not go this route unless fully committed to your top college choice.
What should you choose?

It is advisable to go with a balanced mix of detailed research and personal assessment.

If you need time to polish off your first-semester grades, wrap up extracurriculars with a punch, and have many colleges to choose from, then applying in the Regular Decision cycle should be your go-to approach. Simply put, do not force yourself to make a top choice if you do not have one. Keep your options open.

Conversely, if you know that a college is the best fit for you and you are 100% committed to that institution, then the binding Early Decision is strategically the best choice. The higher acceptance rate and ability to show demonstrated interest will tip the scales in your favor.

In conclusion, do your research. Scour the net, visit the campus, and talk to alumni! Colleges are a place for personal and academic development, so choose the right admissions cycle before the application season cocktail kicks in—specifically the anxiety part!

Good luck. Feel free to contact any of Eye on Ivy’s college counseling experts for follow-up questions and queries.

Fizza Khawaja
Author | + posts

Fizza, currently a freshman at LUMS, loves all things related to reading, reviewing, editing, and writing…and then, writing some more. When she's not adding that final tweak to a personal statement or sprinkling some extra magic onto a supplement, she's busy watching some trashy TV with a steaming cup of tea and a sizable cookie!

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