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Early Decision Schools: Complete List of ED Colleges

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Aug 2, 2018 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 and look at all the schools that currently offer 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 that 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 should, however, make sure you can attend the school regardless of the financial aid package it offers you. Since early decision requires commitment, it might not be an option that's accessible to everyone.

This financial factor has been a point of controversy, causing some schools to switch from early decision to non-binding early action plans. That said, 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 might or might not attend, colleges can be sure that early decision applicants will enroll the following fall.

Some schools appear to accept a higher percentage of early decision candidates than they do regular decision candidates. Since you're committing to a school when you apply this way, your enthusiasm for the institution is likely to make a good impression on admissions officers.

However, early decision doesn't necessarily give you a better chance of getting accepted. Thus, your first priority should always be to submit the best application you can.

As mentioned above, not all early decision deadlines are actually early. Traditionally, early decision deadlines are in November. You'll get notified by mid-December, meaning you could potentially 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 applications. Applying later also gives you the opportunity to retake the SAT/ACT and send mid-year grades from your senior classes. 

When you apply early decision in November, you will get either 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, you're no longer bound to the enrollment agreement you made and can therefore apply to any other schools under regular decision.

You might also consider sending along other information, such as a recommendation letter or mid-year grades, that could help make your application stronger. 

Popular schools with early decision policies include the following:

  • Brown
  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Northwestern
  • University of Pennsylvania

Some schools that offer both Early Decision I and Early Decision II deadlines are as follows:

  • American University
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin
  • Brandeis
  • Colby
  • NYU
  • Pomona
  • Smith
  • Tufts
  • Vanderbilt
  • Wesleyan

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, organized alphabetically by state. Starred schools offer both Early Decision I and Early Decision II. Scroll through the list or hit ctrl + F to find specific schools you're interested in!


*School offers both Early Decision I and II

Elmira College*
Prescott College
Five Towns College
Fordham University
Claremont McKenna College*
Hamilton College*
Harvey Mudd College*
Hartwick College
Loyola Marymount University
Hobart and William Smith Colleges*
Occidental College*
Ithaca College
Pitzer College*
Jewish Theological Seminary*
Pomona College*
Manhattan College
Santa Clara University
Marist College*
Scripps College*
Nazareth College*
University of San Francisco
New York University (NYU)*
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)*
Colorado College*
Rochester Institute of Technology
Sarah Lawrence College*
Connecticut College*
Siena College
Fairfield University*
Skidmore College*
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
St. John Fisher College
Mitchell College
St. Lawrence University
Quinnipiac University
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF)
Sacred Heart University
SUNY Fredonia
Trinity College*
SUNY Geneseo
University of New Haven
SUNY Maritime College
Wesleyan University*
SUNY Old Westbury
District of Columbia
SUNY Oswego
American University*
Syracuse University
Catholic University of America*
Union College*
George Washington University*
University of Rochester
Utica College
Flagler College
Vassar College*
Florida Southern College
Webb Institute
Rollins College*
Wells College
University of Miami*
North Carolina
Davidson College*
Agnes Scott College
Duke University
Emory University*
Elon University
Morehouse College
High Point University*
Spelman College
Meredith College
Wesleyan College
Wake Forest University*
Warren Wilson College
Augustana College
Governors State University
Case Western Reserve University*
Lake Forest College
College of Wooster*
Moody Bible Institute
Denison University*
Northwestern University
Kenyon College*
Miami University
DePauw University
Oberlin College and Conservatory*
Earlham College*
Ohio Wesleyan University
Saint Mary's College
Wittenberg University
Wabash College
Lewis & Clark College
Cornell College*
Reed College*
Grinnell College*
Allegheny College*
Centre College
Bryn Mawr College*
Bucknell University*
Bates College*
Carnegie Mellon University
Bowdoin College*
Dickinson College*
Colby College*
Drexel University
College of the Atlantic*
Duquesne University
Franklin & Marshall College*
Goucher College
Gettysburg College*
Johns Hopkins University
Grove City College
Loyola University Maryland
Haverford College*
Maryland Institute College of Art
Juniata College*
McDaniel College*
Lafayette College*
Salisbury University
Lebanon Valley College
Washington College*
Lehigh University*
Lycoming College
Amherst College
Muhlenberg College
Babson College
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Becker College
Susquehanna University
Bentley University
Swarthmore College*
Boston University*
University of Pennsylvania (Penn/UPenn)
Brandeis University*
Ursinus College*
Clark University
Washington & Jefferson College
College of the Holy Cross
Rhode Island
Gordon College
Brown University
Hampshire College*
Bryant University*
Merrimack College
Providence College*
Mount Holyoke College*
Rhode Island School of Design
Northeastern University
South Carolina
Smith College*
Furman University
Springfield College*
Presbyterian College
Stonehill College
Wofford College
Tufts University*
Wellesley College
Rhodes College*
Wheaton College*
Sewanee: University of the South*
Williams College
Vanderbilt University*
Hillsdale College
Austin College
Kalamazoo College*
Rice University
Southern Methodist University*
Carleton College*
Texas Christian University
Hamline University
Texas Lutheran University
Macalester College*
Trinity University*
St. Olaf College*
Bennington College*
Cox College
Champlain College*
Washington University in St. Louis
Marlboro College
Middlebury College*
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Sterling College
New Hampshire
Dartmouth College
Christopher Newport University
New Jersey
College of William and Mary
Drew University*
Emory & Henry College
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Hampden-Sydney College
Stevens Institute of Technology*
Hollins University
The College of New Jersey*
Lynchburg College
New York
Roanoke College
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
University of Richmond*
Alfred University
Virginia Military Institute
Bard College
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Barnard College
Washington and Lee University*
Clarkson University
Colgate University*
University of Puget Sound*
College of New Rochelle
Whitman College*
Columbia University
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Beloit College*
Cornell University
Lawrence University

*School offers both Early Decision I and II




Should You Apply Early Decision?

Now that you've had a chance to look over the chart, let's look at the main factors you'll want to consider before deciding whether to apply early decision to a school.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you done a lot of research on your top school?
  • Have you visited and explored its campus?
  • Do you have solid reasons for wanting to attend this school? And have you felt this way for at least several months?

If you answered yes to these questions, it sounds as though you've been thorough in deciding on your top school. If you're unsure, tend to change your mind, or aren't excited about attending the school, then early decision probably isn't a good choice for you.

Remember, when applying early decision, you're making a binding commitment. In other words, you're agreeing to enroll in that school if accepted—regardless of whatever financial aid offer you receive. 

Now, some schools claim to meet all demonstrated financial need, but there's no guarantee that your package will be what you want (or need) it to be. Therefore, in addition to learning all about your school of choice, make sure to consider this financial piece when applying early decision. If you have any questions or concerns, try calling your school's financial aid office for advice.

Finally, make sure you're sending off your strongest application possible. Months of planning and prep will likely be needed to achieve your target SAT/ACT scores, gather quality letters of recommendation from teachers, and write your personal statement.

Up next, we give you suggestions for scheduling your college planning in advance of your early decision deadline.




College-Planning Schedule for Early Decision Applicants

Because applying to college has a lot of components that require time and help from your teachers and counselor, it's critical to start early and keep track of relevant information and materials.

Write down all the requirements for your early decision school, check your progress, and set deadlines to make sure you get everything done in time. The application requirement you should start preparing the earliest is the SAT/ACT, both in terms of test prep and taking the actual tests.

For early decision deadlines, the latest you can take the SAT/ACT is typically September or October. Since you want to have enough opportunities to take the test and improve your scores, it's best to follow one of these two schedules:

Schedule Option #1

  • Take the SAT/ACT for the first time in the spring of your sophomore year
  • Take the SAT/ACT a second time in the fall of your junior year
  • Take the SAT/ACT a third time in the spring of your junior year

Schedule Option #2

  • Take the SAT/ACT for the first time in the fall of your junior year
  • Take the SAT/ACT a second time in the spring of your junior year
  • Take the SAT/ACT a third time in the fall of your senior year

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

In addition, be sure to plan out your recommendation letters and personal essay. Ask for your rec letters (and any other documents you need the school to send such as your transcript) at least a month in advance of your deadlines—typically by October. You might also ask junior-year teachers at the end of your junior year. Asking at this time 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 drafts and revisions. Your personal essay is your chance to share your voice with the admissions committee, so give yourself time to say exactly what you want to say. 

Try to work on your Common Application or school application in the fall, proofreading for errors and gathering all the important information you'll need such as extracurriculars. 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 for you.

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 that offer early decision, check out their Early Decision I and Early Decision II deadlines.

Interested in schools that offer the less binding option of early action? This article has the full list of early action schools and their deadlines.

Are you aiming to get into a competitive Ivy League-level school? Our in-depth guide offers valuable insight into the admissions procedures of selective colleges as well as advice on how to build a highly impressive college application.


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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