ED vs EA – Something ALL Families Should Consider

ED vs EA

Written by Keeon Gregory for Understanding the Choices

As parents, our top priority is to provide and protect our children. However, when does parenting take a backseat and the child’s life as a young adult begins to take hold? This is a challenge many parents face.

Having worked as a college counselor for 25 years in independent schools and currently serving as the Director of College Counseling at Greensboro Day School l, I understand how the college admission process can become overwhelming for parents. With college rankings, social media, articles, and stories from friends and family, parents may feel inclined to take control of the process. However, parents need to be mindful that the college process belongs to the student, not the parent.

Many parents believe that if their children have good grades, take AP and honors classes, hold a leadership position at school, accumulate service hours, and play sports or a musical instrument, they should be able to select the college of their choice using Early Decision as a strategy. Unfortunately, there is no perfect college or perfect strategy. College selection needs to be based on four key criteria: academic, social, financial, and emotional fit. If any of the four are not considered, it could make the college experience an unhappy one for both the student and the parents.

If a student finds a school that checks all four boxes and the parent agrees, then Early Decision (ED) is warranted. If the parents and student are unable to agree, then Early Action (EA) is an option to consider.

It is essential to understand the difference between ED and EA when applying to college. ED is a binding agreement between the student and the college. If the student is admitted, they are contractually obligated to attend the school. The student can only apply to one school with an ED status. They are required to withdraw all other college applications upon acceptance and are responsible for paying the security deposit within two weeks of acceptance. If the student is deferred or denied admission, they are free to pursue any college option that still interests them.

EA has the same timeline as ED but is non-binding, leaving all college options on the table if admitted. Applying to at least one school EA is recommended for seniors to secure admission to college over the winter break. It provides students with an early notification of college without the pressure to commit in December. This allows the student to hear from all the Regular Decision options in late March with the comfort of knowing they already have a college option.

Although students have until May 1 to make a final decision, I encourage them to decide by mid-April or before to have better options for housing, orientation dates, and scheduling classes. In closing, deciding to apply for Early Decision is a family decision, but it has to be the student’s choice and should only be used if they are genuinely interested in the school, not as a parental strategy.

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