I am re-posting a blog post from last August, as it is the time of year when all the questions start coming up concerning the Early Action (EA) vs Regular Decision (RD) process. So without further delay, here is an updated version of last year's post!
From now until October 15, one of the most common questions for the admission office will be "Should I apply for Early Action (EA) or Regular Decision (RD)"? There is the perceived notion that one option is better than the other (NOT TRUE!). If a student applies EA and is deferred, they will be shifted to the next stage of review and will be looked at the same way as an RD applicant. If a student applies RD and meets the EA criteria for admission, they will receive an acceptance in late February. In reality, the only person that can answer the question of how they should apply is the student who is applying.
First, the EA Vs. RD difference is really about timing. If a student submits an application for EA, they will know something by at least mid-December. This "something" could be an acceptance, a denial, or a deferral (which means we want more information before we can make a decision). Early Action accepts are applicants that are extremely strong academically, and that our office determines we would admit without even reviewing the non-academic information. EA denials are students that we determine we would not admit for EA or RD based upon the information we have at that time. Deferred applicants are seen as very competitive academically, and we want to review the file after we have receive more detailed information about the student. RD applicants who apply will receive a decision in late February (if they meet EA requirements), or they will hear in late March, when all RD or deferred EA applicants will know final decisions.
Here are my two suggestions when looking at EA vs RD: First, look at the First-Year Profile for previous years, and determine where the applicant would fall within grades, curriculum and test scores. Since Early Action (EA) admitted students are at the top end of the group, if an applicant is not in the mid-50% or higher in at least two of the areas, they should rethink applying EA. Secondly, the applicant should ask if they would like to have first semester grades or SAT/ACT scores from after October in their file before a decision is made. If you want UGA admissions to see more about you, apply RD.
And for those of you who apply EA just because you do not have to complete part II of the application (now it is just the short essays), even though you are not near the mid ranges in the profile, I would suggest you think again. Give yourself time to get your application together, and do not rush to complete it in the end just because you "knew" you would be deferred but did not want to do part II of the application yet. This is like pushing off writing a 10 page report until the last day, and wondering why it did not turn out as well as you thought it would.
Remember that there are a few changes to the 2010 application, with the two biggest items being that each student needs to enter in their self-reported academic grades (so go ahead and get a copy of your transcript!), and that the activities section has been shifted to part I. EA applications will still be reviewed in the same way as in the past, but these two changes will help both our office and the applicant pool in regards to the timing of decisions and the overall admission process.