Whether you’ve got your heart set on one particular dream school or just want to be finished with the college application process months before your peers, the thought of applying early decision can be a tempting one.

It’s a big commitment, though, and you’ll need to be organized and ready to move quickly if you want to make it happen, since the deadline for many schools’ early decision admissions is in early November.

Before you send off that application, here’s what you need to know.

1. The Offer is Binding

You can apply early decision to only one school. If you’re granted admission, you must accept it and withdraw any other outstanding applications. It is very difficult to decline admission once you’ve been accepted early decision. If you can’t make it work financially, then you can decline. However there could be consequences for withdrawing for other reasons. So it’s a good idea to visit campus before you apply so you can make sure you’re certain you want to attend.

College Application Season is Here

Kick-Start Your College Applications Today

Start Now

2. You Won’t Be Able to Compare Financial Aid Packages

Your early decision school may offer you financial aid, but you won’t have an opportunity to compare it to other colleges where you applied regular decision. This means you could miss out on a potentially better financial deal at another institution or on the opportunity to ask your first-choice school to match a more generous financial aid offer. Before applying, take advantage of the school’s net price calculator to get a better understanding of your potential total costs.

3. The Admission Standards Are the Same

Most colleges say they apply the same standards to both early decision applicants and regular decision applicants. However, there are more available spots during early admissions, so the admission rate is usually higher than the regular admission rate.

If you’re not meeting or exceeding the college’s average in terms of your test scores, grades and extracurriculars, you might be better served by applying regular decision and spending one more semester boosting your grades, taking on leadership positions in clubs, sports or other activities or retaking your standardized tests. Postponing your application will also give you extra time to fine tune your essay and solicit some great letters of recommendation.

While applying early decision can be a great way to wrap up your college application process quickly, it’s not a fit for every student.  Consider if early decision is right for you before sending off your application.