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Understanding College Admissions Decisions Plans – Early Action, Early Decision, and Regular Decision

Posted by on Sunday, October 13, 2019 in Application Process, Early Decision, General Information, Uncategorized, Vandy Bloggers.

If you’re a high school senior starting the process of applying to college, you may be thinking about decision plan to use. Colleges offer varying decision plans with different deadlines, different levels of commitment, and different dates when you’ll find out admissions decisions. We’re here today with an overview of some of the main types of decision plans you may come across in your college application process:  Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision. These are general overviews, and it’s important that you understand the specific policies for any school where you choose to submit an application. We hope this will help guide your questions as you consider varying decision plans.

Early Decision: Early Decision is a binding decision plan in which an applicant commits to attend the school if offered admission. As the name suggests, Early Decision plans offer students the opportunity to submit an application before the regular deadline and find out their admissions decision earlier in the process. Early Decision applications typically require some type of signed form (such as the forms provided as a part of the Common Application or Coalition Application) that indicates this intention to enroll upon admission. Students admitted through an Early Decision plan are expected to withdraw all other applications and submit the matriculation fee (or fee waiver) upon receiving the offer of admission.

Students applying Early Decision are strongly encouraged to research the financial aid policies of an institution. For example, it is important to know that Vanderbilt meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted U.S. citizens and non-citizens without the use of loans. Keep in mind that these policies will vary between institutions. You can use a school’s net price calculator  to get a good estimate of what that package might be.

Note: Vanderbilt offers Early Decision I and Early Decision II.

Early Action: Early Action offers students the opportunity to submit applications before the regular deadline and find out their admissions decision earlier in the process, much like Early Decision. The distinction from Early Decision is that students applying through Early Action plans are not committed to their Early Action schools, and still have until May 1 to either accept or decline their offers of admission.  Students who are not admitted Early Action may be “deferred” to the Regular Decision deadline, though these policies will vary between schools.

Note: Vanderbilt does NOT offer an Early Action decision plan. Please refer to the admissions office of each school you are applying to for institution-specific policies.

Regular Decision: The vast majority of students who apply to a given institution will do so through Regular Decision, and they can apply Regular Decision to as many schools as they would like.  While the application submission deadlines will vary between institutions, Regular Decision deadlines typically fall in early January, and offers of admission are sent out in late March or early April.  Students admitted through Regular Decision have until May 1 to either accept or decline their offers, and each student is only permitted to submit a matriculation fee (or fee waiver) to one of the institutions to which they have been admitted.

Here’s a chart with the basic outlines of these decision plans:



As you make your way through the college admissions process, feel free to contact your Vanderbilt admissions counselor with questions about decision plans at Vanderbilt.

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