Early action can be the best of both worlds: Your application materials are due on the traditional timeline, but you still get the anxiety-easing early notification of early decision.

That is to say, you can get accepted in December or January and potentially wait until May 1 to decide whether the school is right for you. All told, it’s a pretty good deal. But if you’ve been accepted to a school early action, you may find yourself with a whole new set of questions, primarily about whether you should accept immediately or hold off until you hear from other schools.

First, it’s worth understanding why early action exists and how it differs from early decision. Early decision is a program in which admission is binding. The only reason a student can elect not to attend a school if accepted through early decision is if the financial aid package is not sufficient to cover tuition costs. Backing out of early decision could hurt your chance of admission elsewhere. Unless you’re 100% sure of where you want to go, early decision can be restrictive.

Early action is different. While early action gives students admissions decisions early, it allows the student to make a decision based on the traditional acceptance timeline. And in most cases, you can still apply to other schools. Colleges offer early action as a way to ensure they will reach target enrollment numbers and have a head start on filling their freshman class. That’s also why you might see other early admissions options from some colleges, like early decision II in which students send applications on a regular mid-December deadline, and receive mid-winter acceptances.

“There’s been an enormous push by colleges to use early action as a marketing tool—an enrollment recruitment tool—so that they can seat their class earlier,” said Tom O’Hare of Get College Going. “But for students and parents, it increases pressure and puts affordability on the back burner.” Often, financial aid packages aren’t included with the early action acceptance, yet students are encouraged to make a commitment to the school before that financial information is available to them.

When you sign on that dotted line, you want to be confident in your decision. Here’s what you should do after you get an early action offer.

Assess Your Other Options

Whether you’re ready to send your deposit or surprised by second thoughts, you can’t make a decision you’re truly confident in without assessing all your options. “It’s great to apply early. It’s great to hear early,” O’Hare says, but he goes on to caution, “If a student hasn’t heard from all schools they applied to, they don’t have a panoramic view of their options.”

Yet, accepting an early action offer as soon as it’s given is not necessarily a bad thing. If a student is 100% confident in their decision and happy with their financial aid offer, deciding early can provide peace of mind.

Consider All Your Financial Aid Packages

Some schools will inform you of your financial aid package when you’re admitted early, but others may delay telling you until all students, including those applying for regular admissions, are notified. It’s important to get all your financial aid information—from your early action school and every other school on your list—before you make your final decision.

Even if you’re happy with the package offered by your early action school, another school could still come through with a better offer. You might think you’re not going to do better, but O’Hare says that may not necessarily be true. He says that not all schools are operationally prepared to deal with the influx of early action applications, and another school where you applied through the regular process may give your financial aid application more consideration.

Visit Campus and Ask Lots of Questions

It’s probably been a while since you last visited the campus or maybe you haven’t made the trek there yet. Either way, now is a great time to visit if you can. It’s good to see with fresh eyes and use it as an opportunity to sit in on a class and talk to faculty and students. Mona Dixon, a teen empowerment coach, suggests looking for networking programs geared toward freshmen. “Arizona State University has a First-Year Success Program,” Dixon says. Programs like this can make it easier to find current students.

Even if your school doesn’t have a special program, talking to current students and recent alumni—on campus or off—can get you information you need to help make a decision.

Be Sure of Your Decision

You want to be certain you’re going to attend the school when you submit your enrollment acceptance. According to O’Hare, you shouldn’t rush this at all. There is no benefit to accepting early, and any stories you hear about preferential treatment for early deposits, particularly when it comes to housing assignments, are likely rumors. Regardless of when you make your deposit, you will most likely lose it if you change your mind. Deposits can be up to $1,000, and even though that money may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to overall cost of tuition, it’s money that could better be spent elsewhere. Veronica Moore, a college consultant in New York and Connecticut, says you should avoid going back on your word. “It’s a good idea not to send your deposit unless you are sure you want to attend,” she says. “Plus, if a few students do this, it can cause your high school to lose favor with the college, which may or may not impact future applicants.”

There’s a lot to think about, but don’t forget to take time to consider your accomplishment: You got into college. That is no easy feat. Be sure you celebrate this achievement.

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