If you’re a parent to a college-bound senior, the question of whether or not to apply early decision has probably come up.

It’s an important question, as early decision is a binding commitment. To help you think it through, we hear from parents and students who weighed the option, ultimately decided to apply early and are happy with their choice.

A Better Shot

Daniel Savage, who applied early decision to California Polytechnic State (Cal Poly), explains: “My GPA was a bit inadequate, but I did have some [impressive] test scores. Still, it made sense to me to apply early decision as it not only boosted my chances of getting into Cal Poly, but to the specific major that I wanted as well.” For most schools, the admissions standards remain the same throughout the application process, but more spots are available earlier on and admission rates tend to be higher about 68% during early acceptance periods compared to 51% during the regular acceptance period. If your student is within range for a particular school, applying early decision could boost their chances of admittance. For his part, Savage is thrilled he chose to apply early and attended Cal Poly: “I don’t think I could have fit in better at another school.”

Stress Relief

Students applying early decision settle on a plan for the next year well before students following the traditional application cycle. A shorter wait and less uncertainty can mean a lot less stress. Author Maria Leonard Olsen supported her daughter’s choice to apply early to Northwestern University for this very reason. “She was a strong student and saw no reason to protract the anxiety-producing process. She was able to prepare for the next chapter in her life sooner.” With students facing a major transition while juggling what can be a heavy academic course load with leadership positions in their extracurriculars, senior year can be stressful before a student even starts the application process. Choosing the early decision route can shorten the period of anxious waiting and reduce senior year stress.

A Dream Come True

Applying early takes motivation and organization, but it can also be a simple decision, like it was for Olsen’s daughter who applied early and was admitted to Northwestern. She was confident in accepting because it was her number one choice. “Northwestern University clicked all the boxes that were important to her,” Olsen explains. This made the decision easy for her, but it’s essential that students be absolutely sure they want to attend the school that they’re applying early to.

Time to Move On

Certain that she wanted to be a Stanford University Cardinal, Shauna Perigo decided to apply early. However, she didn’t get in. “I was sad at first,” she says, “but looking back on it, I’m happy now that I didn’t get in. I now attend UCLA, which in retrospect is a much better fit for me.” For Perigo, applying early was still the right move because it removed her dream school from the mix early in the process and allowed her to seriously evaluate other options.

Applying early was the right option for these students and their families, but it isn’t for everyone. By applying early decision, you forfeit the ability to compare financial aid offers. Nikki Bruno, an educational consultant, frames it this way: “Moral of the story: Don’t apply early decision if financial aid is a make-or-break deal for college.” With the high cost of college, financial aid is a major factor in many families’ decision-making processes — and can often take the early decision option off the table.

However, if your college-bound kid has a clear vision of their academic future and you have an equally clear plan for how to pay for that vision, regardless of financial aid, early decision is an avenue worth exploring. But be prepared to act quickly — those early decision deadlines are right around the corner.