ED I vs. ED II: A Complete Guide to the Differences

As a prospective college student, navigating the ins and outs of the Early Decision (ED) process can be overwhelming. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the differences between ED I and ED II college applications while shedding light on their advantages, the deadlines involved, and how to make an informed decision on which to choose.

Types of Early Decision Plans

Early Decision is an admissions process offered by many colleges and universities that enables students to apply earlier than the regular application deadline, typically during their senior year. There are two kinds of Early Decision plans:

  1.   ED I (Early Decision I): This option has an earlier deadline, usually in November, and decisions are typically released in mid-December. Students may apply to only one ED I school and must commit to attending if accepted.
  2.   ED II (Early Decision II): A similar plan to ED I, but with a later deadline—usually in January, with decisions released in February. Students may apply to only one ED II school and must commit to attending if accepted.

Note: Several colleges and universities offer both ED I and ED II options. Examples include:

  • Vanderbilt University
  • Emory University
  • Tufts University
  • Brandeis University
  • Boston College

To apply via either early decision plan, students submit their application materials by the respective deadline, as well as a signed Early Decision Agreement indicating their commitment to enroll if accepted.

Pros and Cons of Each Plan

ED I Pros:

  • Higher acceptance rates than regular decision or ED II, increasing the student’s chances of being admitted to their top-choice institution.
  • Students receive their decision in December, which can relieve stress and improve senior-year focus on academic performance.

ED I Cons:

  • Limited time to complete applications, resulting in a rushed process.
  • Less opportunity for students to compare financial aid packages, as they must commit upon acceptance.

ED II Pros:

  • Still offers increased chances of acceptance compared to regular decision, though lower than ED I.
  • Additional time to work on applications, improving overall quality and consideration of choice.

ED II Cons:

  • Limited ability to compare financial aid offers like ED I.
  • Decision notification comes later, causing continued uncertainty into February.

Deadlines and Timelines


  • Application Deadline: Typically November 1 or November 15.
  • Decision Notification: Mid-December.


  • Application Deadline: Usually January 1 or January 15.
  • Decision Notification: February.

Acceptance Rates, Financial Aid, and Commitment Expectations

Admissions officers evaluate ED applicants carefully as these students demonstrate a high level of interest in attending the institution. Factors considered include academic performance, extracurricular activities, demonstrated interest, and the student’s potential fit within the campus community.

Students should understand that applying ED to any institution requires a binding commitment to attend if accepted. Therefore, it’s crucial to weigh the financial implications. Though many universities offer need-based financial aid to ED applicants, students will not have the opportunity to compare aid packages from other schools.

Early Decision I (EDI) vs. Early Decision II (EDII)

Several educational institutions offer two early decision categories and deadlines, namely ED I and ED II. The primary distinction between the two lies in their respective deadlines. ED I has a deadline around November 1st, while ED II falls closer to January 1st.

Traditionally, acceptance rates for ED I tend to be higher, although ED II acceptance rates generally surpass those of regular decision. It is important to note that both options are binding and the decisions are made prior to regular decision offers.

Choosing Between ED I and ED II

Students pursuing an [academic field] degree might consider the following when deciding between ED I and ED II:

  • Does the student have a strong enough application to benefit from the increased acceptance rates of ED I?
  • Can the student complete their application materials in time for the ED I deadline?
  • Is it possible to receive notification of a decision before the December holidays?
  • Does the student have enough information about their college choices to make an informed decision without comparing financial aid packages?

Why Should I Consider Applying to College Early?

The data on acceptance rates clearly demonstrates that students who applied during the early action and early decision rounds had significantly higher acceptance rates compared to those who applied during the regular decision round. It is important to note that some colleges may have different admissions standards for early applicants, so it is advisable to review each college’s specific requirements.

It is often observed that students with strong academic records tend to apply early. Furthermore, early applicants typically have a strong interest in studying at a particular university, making it highly likely that they will accept the offer.

Here are some additional advantages of applying during the early action and early decision rounds:

Reduced Stress Levels

By applying early, you will spend less time waiting for a decision compared to your peers, as colleges typically notify early applicants in November. Additionally, since you are likely to apply to fewer colleges during the early rounds, you will have to respond to fewer essay prompts.

Time and Cost Savings

As you are not applying to a large number of colleges, you will save both time and money on individual applications. This not only gives financial relief but also allows you to focus your energy on crafting a strong application for your top-choice college.

Additional Preparation Time for College

If you are accepted into your preferred college, you will have more time to finalize important aspects such as housing, course selection, and the logistics of moving before starting your college journey.

Opportunity for Reassessment and Applying Elsewhere

In the event that you are not admitted to your dream college, you still have the opportunity to apply to other institutions. Having prior experience in filling out applications and having all your basic information readily available will make the application process smoother and more efficient.


Applying to college early has many advantages. Understanding the differences between ED I and ED II, as well as considering the pros and cons of each plan can help you make an informed decision about how and when to apply. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which application route is best for you—the earlier you start preparing, the better.

Whatever path you choose, ensure that you begin your college search as early as possible. Research the programs and universities of interest to narrow down your list and identify which institutions best fit your academic goals.