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 RD and meets the EA criteria for admission, they will receive an acceptance in late February. 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 who is not admitted during the February admission process. 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 during December through March, when we have much more time to do holistic reviews.. 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 (and the third area is not WAY below the mid-range), 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 15 in their file before a decision is made. If you want UGA admissions to see more about you, apply RD.
For both Early Action and Regular Decision applicants, give yourself time to get your application together, and do not rush to complete it at the deadline. 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.
So if you are looking for someone to tell you whether to apply EA or RD, look in the mirror, because you are the person that knows your situation best, so you are the one that needs to make this call.