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3 min read

Reacting to Early Decision & Early Action Decision Letters: Plan Your Next Steps

Reacting to Early Decision & Early Action Decision Letters: Plan Your Next Steps

With Halloween decorations everywhere and holiday decorations already for sale, thoughts of winter break are starting to emerge.

December, after all, is that time of year for all things jolly and bright—a time for breaks from school (and work) and holiday gatherings with family and friends. It's also a time for both nostalgic reflection and eager anticipation as the New Year looms with possibilities.

For many college-bound students, one of those possibilities is the word that they have been admitted into the college of their choice! Students eagerly await the outcome of early decision (ED) and early action (EA) applications they submitted in the fall. While many applicants receive good news, others are left wondering about next steps in the application process.

Let’s take a look at the possible outcomes along with recommendations for moving forward so you're prepared come December:

 

You've been accepted for early decision or early action. What's next?

You’re accepted! This is great news—now you can exhale! As you do, remember what this means. In the case of both early decision (ED) and early action (EA), you have been assured a place in the entering class at the school in question.

Is it a guarantee? 🤔

Well, sort of.

In not-so-small print, most acceptance letters remind you that the offer of admission is contingent on your completion of the senior year at the same level of performance that won you admission. The admission office at that school will continue to track your performance through graduation, all the while reserving the right to withdraw the offer (and your place in the class) if you fail to live up to your end of the bargain. So…

  • ☀️ Relax, recharge, and have fun, but keep going to class and perform at the highest level possible

  • 🏫 Resist the temptation to modify your academic course load for the rest of the year

  • 💬 Make sure any subsequent changes in program or performance are addressed in updates to your application file. You don’t want admission officers to guess about any unexplained irregularities that materialize after you have been admitted

 

1. Take steps to honor your commitment

While both ED and EA offers of admission bring peace of mind, the ED offer also requires you to take action by completing the enrollment process. As an admitted ED candidate, you must:

  • Withdraw all other applications including those at schools where you might be under consideration for any type of scholarship. Your ED commitment means you have agreed to forfeit those other possibilities
  • Submit your enrollment deposit by the designated date in your acceptance letter

2. Consider your financial aid

If you have been admitted ED and have submitted the required forms for financial aid in a timely fashion, you have the right to see and accept your early decision or early action financial aid award letter before withdrawing other applications and submitting your enrollment deposit. 

On the other hand, don’t expect an extension on your enrollment deadline in order to complete the financial aid forms (if you are starting that process after the offer of admission has been made), or to compare financial aid awards with other schools. Similarly, you might be expected to enroll before learning your status with regard to scholarships for which you have applied at that school.

 

You've been deferred or denied. Now what?

If you have been denied, the outcome is clear. There will be no further review. It is time to look to your other options. 

If you have been deferred, the admission committee is demonstrating its reluctance to commit to you right now. It wants to see more information (updated grades, new accomplishments, etc.) from you and see how your credentials fit in the overall candidate pool before making a final decision.

As a result, you still have hope for a positive outcome. Generally speaking, deferred candidates don’t fare as well later in the admission process. If an admission committee thinks it might admit you as a regular candidate, it most often will admit you as an ED candidate.

In the case of either deferral or denial, you are being set free from any commitment. You are now a free agent able to refocus on other schools on your short list that presumably represent good fits for you. Please don't despair, things will work out! 

Some of these places will even resurface as strong suitors encouraging you to think about converting your application from regular admission to early decision round two at their schools. This is a viable option; however, be careful not to react emotionally to such opportunities. Make sure you are embracing a healthy, positive, constructive opportunity rather than rebounding from a situation that resulted in great disappointment. Early decision, even through a round two option, still involves a commitment.

Ensure the college is the right place for you.

 

Keep Your Head Held High

Believe in yourself! In the mass mayhem of early decision and early action, self-worth seems to ride on the coattails of each outcome. Just as you might be flying high with a letter of acceptance, it is also easy to feel like you have somehow failed if you are not admitted to the school of your choice. Don’t succumb to that notion. That school has simply made other choices based on their agendas, seen and unseen. In the process, it missed an opportunity to choose you. 

You'll find wonderful opportunities at other schools if you only allow yourself to see them. Don’t stop believing in you! Keep sight of who you are and what you hope to accomplish in college and in life! 💙

This article was originally published on December 16, 2020. It was updated on October 4, 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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