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Early Decision Schools: Complete List of ED Colleges

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Sep 13, 2015 5:30:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info



Did you know that early decision isn't necessarily early? Binding decision might be a better name for it, since some schools now offer "early" decision deadlines in January, as well as in November.

Either way, applying early decision is a big commitment. If you apply this way, you should be totally sure you want to attend that school. Let's review the pros and cons of early decision, as well as look at all the schools with early decision admission.


What Is Early Decision?

Early decision is a binding admission plan. When you apply early decision, you sign a statement agreeing to enroll in the college if you're accepted. Because of this binding agreement to enroll, you can only apply to one school early decision. 

Applying this way is a great choice if you've done your research, weighed your options, and have zeroed in on your dream school. You also want to make sure you can attend the school regardless of the financial aid package it offers you. Since early decision requires this commitment, it may not be an option that's accessible to everyone.

This financial factor has been a point of controversy for the past few years, causing some schools to switch from early decision to non-binding early action plans. However, many schools still offer early decision, as you'll see below, perhaps to remain competitive and gain a more accurate sense of enrollment numbers. Rather than offering spots to students who may or may not attend, colleges can be sure that early decision applicants will enroll next fall.

Some schools appear to accept a higher percentage of early decision candidates than regular decision candidates. Since you're committing to a school when you apply this way, your enthusiasm for the school might make a good impression on admissions officers. However, early decision doesn't necessarily give you a better chance of getting accepted. Your first priority should be submitting the best application you can.

As I mentioned above, not all early decision deadlines are actually early. Traditionally, early decision deadlines are in November. You'll get notified in mid-December, meaning you might have your college plans finalized before the new year.

Some schools now also offer Early Decision II. Early Decision II has the same stipulations as Early Decision I, but its deadline is typically in January. Early Decision II is a good option for students who are ready to sign a binding agreement, but could benefit from a couple more months to prepare their application. Applying later gives you the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT again, if needed, as well as to send mid-year grades from your senior classes. 

When you apply early decision in November, you might get accepted, denied, or deferred. Getting deferred means that your application will be pushed into the regular applicant pool to be reviewed again in February or March. If this happens, then you're no longer bound to the enrollment agreement you made and can apply to any other schools under regular decision. You might also consider sending along any other information, like a recommendation letter or mid-year grades, that could help make your application stronger. 

Some popular schools with early decision include Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania. Some schools that offer both Early Decision I and Early Decision II deadlines are American University, Boston University, Brandeis, Bowdoin, Colby, NYU, Pomona, Smith, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Vanderbilt.

There are lots of other early decision schools besides these well-known, competitive schools. You'll find the full list below.




Complete List: Schools Offering Early Decision 

Here's the full list of schools with early decision by state. The starred schools offer both Early Decision I and Early Decision II. Scroll down or hit "Ctrl + f" to find any specific schools you're interested in.


* Indicates Schools Offering Early Decision I and II


Prescott College AZ


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo CA
California State University Sacramento CA
Claremont McKenna College* CA
Harvey Mudd College* CA
New School of Architecture & Design CA
Occidental College* CA
Pitzer College* CA
Pomona College* CA
Santa Clara University CA
Scripps College* CA
University of San Francisco CA


Colorado College* CO


Connecticut College* CT
Fairfield University CT
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts CT
Mitchell College CT
Quinnipiac University CT
Sacred Heart University CT
Trinity College* CT
Wesleyan University* CT

Washington, DC

American University* DC
George Washington University* DC
Howard University DC


Flagler College FL
Florida Southern College FL
Rollins College* FL
University of Miami FL
University of South Florida FL


Emory University* GA
Morehouse College GA
Spelman College GA
Wesleyan College GA


Cornell College IA
Grinnell College IA


East-West University IL
Lake Forest College* IL
Lakeview College of Nursing IL
Moody Bible Institute IL
Northwestern University IL
University of Illinois at Chicago IL
Wheaton College* IL


DePauw University IN
Earlham College IN
Saint Mary's College IN
Wabash College IN


Centre College* KY
Georgetown College KY


Southern University at New Orleans LA


Amherst College MA
Babson College MA
Bentley University MA
Boston University* MA
Brandeis University* MA
College of the Holy Cross MA
Gordon College MA
Hampshire College* MA
Merrimack College MA
Mount Holyoke College* MA
Northeastern University MA
Smith College* MA
Springfield College* MA
Stonehill College MA
Tufts University* MA
Wellesley College MA
Williams College MA


Goucher College MD
Hood College MD
Johns Hopkins University MD
Maryland Institute College of Art MD
Salisbury University MD
St. Mary's College of Maryland* MD
Washington College* MD


Bates College* ME
Bowdoin College* ME
Colby College* ME
College of the Atlantic* ME
Maine Maritime Academy ME


Hillsdale College MI
Kalamazoo College* MI


Carleton College* MN
Hamline University MN
Macalester College* MN
St. Olaf College* MN


Cox College MO
Washington University in St. Louis MO


Mississippi College MS

North Carolina

Davidson College* NC
Duke University NC
Elon University NC
Fayetteville State University NC
High Point University NC
Meredith College NC
Wake Forest University NC
Warren Wilson College NC

New Hampshire

College of Saint Mary Magdalen NH
Dartmouth College NH

New Jersey

Drew University* NJ
Stevens Institute of Technology* NJ
The College of New Jersey* NJ

New York

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences NY
Alfred University NY
Barnard College NY
Baruch College (City University of New York) NY
Buffalo State College NY
Clarkson University NY
Colgate University* NY
College at Old Westbury NY
College of New Rochelle NY
College of Wooster NY
Columbia University NY
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art NY
Cornell University NY
Elmira College* NY
Five Towns College NY
Hamilton College* NY
Hartwick College NY
Hobart and William Smith Colleges* NY
Ithaca College NY
Manhattan College NY
Manhattanville College NY
Marist College NY
Nazareth College* NY
New York University* NY
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute* NY
Rochester Institute of Technology NY
Sarah Lawrence College* NY
Siena College NY
Skidmore College* NY
St. John Fisher College NY
St. Lawrence University NY
State University of New York at Fredonia NY
State University of New York at Oswego NY
State University of New York College at Geneseo NY
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry NY
State University of New York Maritime College NY
Syracuse University* NY
The Jewish Theological Seminary* NY
Union College NY
University at Buffalo NY
University of Rochester NY
Vassar College* NY
Webb Institute NY
Wells College NY


Case Western Reserve University* OH
College of Wooster* OH
Denison University* OH
Kenyon College* OH
Miami University OH
Oberlin College* OH
Ohio Wesleyan University OH
Wittenberg University OH


Lewish & Clark College OR
Reed College* OR
Willamette University OR


Allegheny College* PA
Bryn Mawr College* PA
Bucknell University* PA
Carnegie Mellon University PA
Dickinson College* PA
Duquesne University PA
Franklin & Marshall College* PA
Gettysburg College* PA
Grove City College PA
Haverford College PA
Juniata College* PA
Lehigh University* PA
Muhlenberg College PA
Susquehanna University* PA
Swarthmore College* PA
University of Pennsylvania PA
Ursinus College PA
Washington & Jefferson College PA

Rhode Island

Brown University RI
Bryant University* RI
Rhode Island School of Design RI

South Carolina

Furman University SC
Presbyterian College SC
Wofford College SC


Rhodes College* TN
Sewanee: University of the South* TN
Vanderbilt University* TN


Rice University TX
Southern Methodist University* TX
Sul Ross State University TX
Texas Christian University TX
Texas Southern University TX
Trinity University* TX


Christopher Newport University VA
College of William and Mary VA
Hampden-Sydney College VA
Hollins University VA
Lynchburg College VA
Mary Baldwin College VA
Roanoke College VA
University of Richmond* VA
Virginia Commonwealth University VA
Virginia Military Institute VA
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University VA
Washington and Lee University* VA


Bennington College* VT
Champlain College* VT
Marlboro College VT
Middlebury College* VT


Heritage University WA
University of Puget Sound* WA
Walla Walla University WA
Whitman College* WA


Beloit College* WI
Lawrence University* WI

*Offers Early Decision I and II


If you're thinking about applying early decision to any of these schools, make sure you've considered the following.




Should You Apply Early Decision?

Have you done research on your top school? Have you visited and explored the campus? Do you have solid reasons for wanting to attend, and have felt this way for at least several months? If you answered yes to these questions, then it sounds like you've been thorough in deciding on your top school.

If you're unsure, tend to change your mind a lot, or aren't excited about attending the school, then early decision wouldn't be a good choice for you. The most important point to remember about applying early decision is that you're making a binding commitment. That means you are agreeing to enroll in the school if accepted, regardless of whatever financial aid offer you receive.

Some schools say they meet all demonstrated financial need, but you won't have a guarantee that the package will be what you expected or wanted it to be. In addition to learning all about your school of choice, make sure you've considered this financial piece to applying early decision, as well. If you have questions or concerns, you can call the financial aid office for advice, too.

If you'd like to get your application in by the early deadline and find out early, you also want to make sure you're sending off the strongest application you can. It requires months of planning and prepping to achieve your target SAT or ACT scores, gather your recommendation letters, and write your personal essay. Below are suggestions for scheduling out your college planning in advance of an early decision deadline.




Schedule Out Your College Planning

Since applying to college has a lot of components that require time and help from your teachers and counselor, you want to start early and keep track of everything. Write down all the requirements, mark your progress, and set deadlines for yourself to make sure you get everything done. Perhaps the application requirement you should start preparing for earliest is the SAT or ACT, both in terms of test prep and taking the official tests. 

Since September or October of senior year would be the last time to take the ACT or SAT, you want to have enough opportunities to take the test and improve your scores. You might take it for the first time in the spring of sophomore year, again in the fall of junior year, and again in the spring of junior year. If you feel like two test dates junior year, along with the final one in the fall of senior year, is sufficient, then you could take your first test in the fall of junior year.

Your goal might be to have your SAT or ACT scores all set by the end of junior year, so you don't have to worry about achieving your target scores on that last test date senior year. If you're applying Early Decision II with the January deadline, then you'll have a little more wiggle room in terms of available test dates.  

Beyond your standardized testing, you should plan out your recommendation letters and personal essay. Ask for your rec letters (and any other documents you need the school to send, like your transcript) at least a month in advance of deadlines, typically by October. You might also ask junior year teachers at the end of junior year. Asking at the end of 11th grade can be a good idea regardless of your college deadlines since your junior year teachers will remember you most clearly then.  

Finally, work on your personal essay over the summer, leaving several months to brainstorm ideas and work through several drafts and revisions. Your personal essay is your chance to share your voice with the admissions committee. You want to give yourself time to say exactly what you want to say. 

Beyond these components, you can work on your Common Application or school application during the fall, proofreading for any errors and gathering all the important information. Make sure to discuss with your counselor your reasons for applying early decision, and finally have your parents and counselor sign the early decision agreement form.

Applying this way will signal your commitment and excitement about a school to admissions committees. You can impress them even further with a thoughtful, thorough application that demonstrates exactly why you'd be a great fit at their college.


What's Next? 

Now that you know all the schools with early decision, check out their Early Decision I and Early Decision II deadlines here

If you're also interested in schools that offer the less binding option of early action, you can learn more about them here. This guide has the full list of early action schools and their deadlines.

Are you aiming to get into a competitive or Ivy League school? This in-depth guide gives valuable insight into the admissions procedures of selective colleges and advice on how to build the most impressive college application you can.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Rebecca Safier
About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

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