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The traditional college application process can feel long.

Early decision can be a tempting option because it trims the process timeline significantly. Early decision is a college admission option in which students can apply in early to mid-November and receive the school’s admission decision within a few weeks, normally before mid-December. Not only does it decrease the amount of time that you’re biting your nails waiting to hear back, but it potentially raises your chance of getting in. Acceptance rates average 47% for early decision applications as opposed to 36% for applications on the traditional timeline.  

For all of the benefits of early decision, it’s actually not an easy choice to make. Applying early decision is generally binding, which means if you’re admitted, you’ve committed to going to that college. There are certain circumstances — such as financial reasons — where a student can withdraw their acceptance, but rescinding can hurt your chances of being admitted elsewhere. This level of commitment means that your early decision school should be your top choice, and you’re willing to forgo comparing financial aid packages.

If you’re unsure about applying early decision, here’s a quiz that can offer some guidance.