Financial Matters: Early Decision/ Early Action and Financial Aid

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Early Decision is a binding admissions decision plan. In exchange for receiving an earlier admissions decision, students applying ED agree that, if they’re admitted, they’ll attend that college and withdraw all of their other college applications. Typically, Early Decision plans have deadlines in early November. Since ED is a binding agreement, students who’ve carefully and thoroughly researched their college options and decided with certainty that one particular school is their top choice are the best candidates for Early Decision. Although Early Decision can significantly increase your chance of admission at many colleges, there is a potential downside in ED for students who require financial aid to attend college.

How will applying Early Decision affect financial aid? If you’re admitted during Early Decision, you’ll typically receive the same financial aid package that you would have received if you’d applied in the regular admissions cycle. However, one of the main disadvantages of applying Early Decision is that if you’re admitted in the ED round, you won’t be able to compare financial aid offers from other colleges. You won’t, for instance, know whether you might have received a significant merit scholarship or fewer student loans elsewhere. Because you’re giving up the right to compare financial aid and scholarship offers from other colleges by applying ED, it’s smart for families to use the Net Price Calculators on different college websites to get estimates of how financial aid may vary before making the ED choice.

Like Early Decision, Early Action allows students to apply and receive an admissions decision earlier in senior year. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is not a binding agreement. If you’re admitted in the EA round, you can still apply to other colleges and will have until May 1 to make your final decision.

How does applying Early Action affect financial aid? Students will typically receive the same need-based financial aid package when they apply Early Action that they would if they applied during the regular admissions cycle. Unlike Early Decision, when you’re admitted Early Action, your family will still be able to compare financial aid offers from any other colleges that admit you before you make your final decision about where to attend.