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What to Do After Receiving Early Decision and Early Action Admissions Decisions

Hello, seniors! As the holiday season rolls in, so do the early college decisions. If you've applied via Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA), you're on the brink of some big news. December is when most colleges send out their early decisions, and knowing what to expect can really help you prepare.

ED vs. EA: The Basics

Early Decision (ED): This is for your top-choice school. If they accept you, you're agreeing to go there.

Early Action (EA): You apply early, hear back early, but you don't have to decide right away. You have until May 1st to decide, giving you the chance to explore other offers.

Dealing with Different Outcomes

Acceptance (ED)

Pop the confetti! But before you get caught up in the celebration, take a moment to understand the next steps. According to the Common App Early Decision agreement:

If the student is accepted under an early decision plan, the student must promptly withdraw the applications submitted to other colleges and universities and make no additional applications to any other university in any country. If the student is an early decision candidate and is seeking financial aid, the student need not withdraw other applications until the student has received notification about financial aid from the admitting early decision institution.

If financial aid is a significant factor in your decision to attend, you should review the financial aid package before finalizing your commitment. If the aid isn’t enough, or if the college doesn’t meet your financial needs, reach out to the school's financial aid office. If financial aid doesn’t make attendance possible, you may decline the offer of admission and be released from the Early Decision commitment.

Once you accept an Early Decision (ED) offer, you agree to withdraw any applications you’ve already sent and not apply to other schools. This is an important step as it's part of the agreement you made when applying ED. Once done, you can focus on the transition to college life, from exploring your future campus online to connecting with future classmates.

It's important for students to understand the specific policies of each college regarding financial aid and ED commitments.

Acceptance (EA)

Breathe a sigh of relief! You've been accepted and still have time to make a decision. Use the coming months to look into financial aid packages, campus life, and academic offerings. If you can, visit the campuses and talk to current students or alumni to get a feel for the school.


A deferral isn't a 'no'. It means your application will be reconsidered with the regular decision pool. While it can feel like a setback, it's actually a second chance. It's important to maintain your academic performance and stay involved in extracurricular activities. You can also strengthen your application by sending an update letter to the college, expressing your continued interest and highlighting any new achievements or awards since your initial application. Keep in mind, though, that it's important to continue focusing on other college applications as well.


Rejection can sting, but it's not a measure of your abilities or potential. Allow yourself time to process any disappointment, then shift your focus to other colleges where you've applied. Every college is looking for a different mix of students, and another school may be an even better fit for your talents and interests.

Keep up the Momentum

Continuing with your applications is key, especially if you're waiting for decisions or have been deferred. Regular decision deadlines typically fall in early January, so use your time efficiently to complete these applications. This includes finalizing essays, following up on recommendation letters, and verifying that all required documents have been submitted.

Decision Day

Find a calm, private spot to check your admission results—a place where you can comfortably process whatever news you receive. Whether it's good news or disappointing, it's important to have a space where you can express your emotions openly.

Emotionally, decision day can be intense. It helps to have a support system in place – family, friends, or even a school counselor – ready to celebrate or offer comfort and perspective. Whatever the outcome, remember that it's just one step in your larger educational journey.

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