Early Decisions: What to do next if you're accepted, deferred or denied

It's decision time for students who have applied early action (EA), early decision (ED)  or restrictive early action (REA) with the news soon to arrive via email or snail mail. Once you receive your notification, there are still some steps to be taken. We've outlined these next steps for students under every scenario -- acceptance, deferral or denial.  

Students admitted under early decision (ED), early action (EA), or restrictive early action (REA):

Congratulations! First let us say we're so happy you will have one more thing to celebrate over the holiday break! Once you catch your breath, here are some steps to take:

Early Action and Restrictive Early Action

EA and REA programs are nonbinding and students have until May 1 to inform the college whether they will enroll.

  • If the EA or REA school where you have been admitted is your first choice, you may want to inform them of your intention to attend and withdraw any applications to the other schools on your list.
  • If you are not sure you will attend the EA or REA school or your family will want to review and compare multiple financial aid awards, complete the applications to the other schools on your list. (See the note on financial aid later in this post.)

Early Decision

ED programs are binding and students must enroll if accepted.

  • Immediately withdraw any applications you have submitted to other schools. You may notify these schools by email, but make sure the email is acknowledged. If it is not acknowledged, follow up with a letter and save a copy for your records.
  • You're done. Enjoy your senior year!

Some further advice:

Take a moment to celebrate, but don't give in to senioritis. Remember acceptances are conditional upon completion of your senior year in good standing.

Start getting to know the school where you will spend the next four years by networking with the college and your classmates via social media. Keep your eye out for admitted student visits the school may offer in the spring.

Be sensitive to your classmates who may not have received happy news or who may have applied under regular decision plans and do not yet know where they will be going next year. Be aware of their feelings and keep things low-key as you discuss your options and opportunities.

And remember to circle back and thank your counselors, teachers, and everyone else who helped make this moment possible -- including your parents!

A quick note on financial aid:

If you are applying for financial aid, check with the college to find out how they handle aid awards under EA or REA plans. Some schools may provide families with an estimated award with the offer of admission or shortly thereafter, which will be updated and confirmed in the spring. Other schools may release decisions on a specific date, usually around March 1.

Students who have applied ED will not have an opportunity to compare awards, but may receive an estimated award with their offer. Check with the financial aid office to see how they handle financial aid under an ED plan.


Students who have been Deferred under Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), or Restrictive Early Action (REA):

If deferred under ED, EA or REA, students are placed in the regular admission pool for later consideration. You do not have to reapply, but there are some actions you should be taking at the school where you have been deferred if that school remains a top choice for you:

  • Send an email or letter indicating you are still very interested in attending the college, highlighting for the admission office anything new in your life.
  • Update your application. Some colleges may have a form requesting new information, or, if a form is not provided, the college will usually be clear about what additional information should be submitted in their notification letter. Such information may include first- semester grades, scores from any retaking of the SAT or ACT if they are higher, SAT Subject Test scores the college hasn’t seen, or any significant academic or extracurricular achievements.
  • If the college says they will welcome additional information, consider sending in an additional essay or a class paper you’re proud of.
  • Request an interview. Schools will have different policies with regard to the availability of interviews for students deferred under an early program. Check the website of the school or call the admission office to find out about their interview policy in this case.

Further advice:

  • This is the time to re-focus your attention on and get excited about all the other interesting colleges on your list.
  • Proceed with completing your other applications.
  • Be in close touch with your teachers and counselors who are writing your recommendations before the winter break, since some colleges have Jan. 1 deadlines. Be sure all your recommenders are prepared to send out more letters to the remaining schools on your list before school lets out for the holidays.

Students who have been Denied under Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), or Restrictive Early Action (REA):

If you are denied under ED, EA, or REA, this decision is final and you will not be reconsidered. You cannot reapply for consideration under a regular decision plan.

A denial under an early plan may seem harsh, coming at this time of year, right around the holidays. But accept it as valuable guidance. The school is sending you a strong signal early on that you’re not in the running and will be best served by placing your attention elsewhere— on your applications to the other wonderful schools on your list.

So, first and foremost, proceed with completing your applications to the other schools on your list. Move on and let yourself get excited about these other schools!

Remember, too, to be in close touch with your teachers and counselors who are writing your recommendations before the winter break. Be sure all your recommenders are prepared to send out more letters to the remaining schools on your list before school lets out for the holidays.


A further note:

We are sometimes asked whether a student who has been denied ED and has another school high on their list that offers two rounds of ED may apply for that second round. It’s fine to do this -- and would also be fine to do this if denied under an EA or REA plan -- provided you meet all the other conditions we’ve outlined that show early decision is right for you -- including an agreement in your family that you will not need to compare financial aid awards and a certainty that this is the school where you would unquestionably enroll if admitted.

If— once you take away the ED I school from your list—you are certain of this next top choice and that school offers ED II, by all means apply. If you were deferred from your ED I school and then apply to a second school ED II, you will need to attend if you are admitted to the second school, and must then withdraw all other applications, including your application to the ED school you applied to in the first round.

Best of luck to each and every one of you!





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