Saint Joseph's University

Understanding College Application Options

overhead shot of student with a laptop and writing in a notebook

When applying to college you make dozens of decisions. What schools should I visit? Where should I apply? What do I want to major in?  What should I write my essay about? How do I make my application stand out? As you sift through all the information available, it’s easy to second guess yourself. Knowing which application option is best for you can make the other decisions easier to make. One big decision that you will need to make is choosing between Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision application options. Let’s break down what each option means:

Early Decision (ED)

Early Decision is a binding option that shows the school you’re applying to that it is your clear first-choice and that you will enroll at the school if admitted. If you are admitted in ED, you must withdraw all other applications and submit your enrollment deposit. Early Decision could be a good option if the school you’re applying to is a strong academic, social, and financial fit for you. If a school you’re interested in offers Early Decision, a good place to start is by using that school’s Net Price Calculator. This tool provides an estimate of your remaining costs after any scholarships, grants, or loans you may be eligible for. You’ll also want to talk with your family and college counselor about the decision to apply Early Decision.

Early Action (EA)

Early Action is a non-binding application option for students who are eager to submit their applications by November. This option allows flexibility to compare admission and financial aid offers from all the schools you’ve been admitted to. You are able to keep your options open while submitting materials early, having decisions sooner, and having more time to make your final decision by the May 1 national deadline.

Regular Decision (RD)

Regular Decision is a non-binding option that allows extra time to get your materials together. Because most applications for early admission are due in November, the beginning of your senior year can become overwhelming. If you want to bring up your GPA, take another standardized test, or just have more time to put your materials together, this is the option for you. You will still have plenty of time to compare admission and financial aid offers, but Regular Decision gives you a bit more time to make your application the best it can be.

Always remember that your admission counselor is your advocate. We are here to help, so if you can’t decide what to do, reach out! We are always ready to help you narrow down the best decision for you. Whatever you choose, remember that this process, while stressful and busy, can be extremely exciting and enjoyable. We are looking forward to working with you and we can’t wait to read your application.


by Jordan Robbins, Admission Counselor