Admissions Plans: Early Action vs. Early Decision for Arts Applicants

Yes, there is Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) for arts applicants too! These are increasingly popular options for high school seniors embarking on the college application process. For performing and visual arts applicants, there are essential deadlines to understand when applying. Early Action and Early Decision I/II* are options at many colleges and can be great for applicants in certain situations. However, it is important to know the differences between these options and then make an informed decision on which deadline makes the most sense.

Early Action (EA)

This is ideal for applicants who prefer a non-binding application, meaning that while the college admission decision notification would usually come in December, applicants still have until May 1st to decide whether to enroll.

  • Pros: If a student isn’t 100% sure about which school is right for them, early action allows them to apply to more than one college. For arts applicants with required auditions, portfolio reviews, or interviews, having even one early acceptance can seriously reduce the stress of scheduled appointments at other colleges later in the winter. Performing and visual arts colleges that offer EA typically offer special audition/interview dates. Applying EA also increases the odds of being admitted to college.

  • Cons: There are none! If a college offers EA and the deadline can be met, there is no reason not to do it unless the applicant is looking at Ivy League universities that participate in “single-choice early action.”

Early Decision (ED)

Applicants who are certain about their top choice and would definitely attend a particular college will find this binding option the most beneficial. ED requires admitted applicants to withdraw any applications submitted to other colleges and cancel any other scheduled auditions or portfolio reviews.

  • Pros: If accepted, students have a guaranteed placement at their first and only college of choice. It decreases the stress of applying to other colleges, saves on travel expenses, and saves time visiting multiple institutions for interviews and auditions.

  • Cons: Unfortunately, not all students are accepted to their first choice and may have to scramble to complete other applications. Depending on each college, penalties may apply if a student changes their mind on attending. Additionally, ED plans usually do not cater to lower income families and may limit financial aid opportunities.

Early Decision II (ED2)

Alternatively, some institutions offer a second ED deadline. This is appealing for students who need more time to research colleges and prep their applications or who have learned that their first choice college deferred their ED application to the regular decision pool. ED II is still a binding plan and colleges accept a fewer number of applicants in this second round.

Regardless of which option is best, it is important to remember that these are competitive deadlines and are catered to driven students and parents. The earlier the application, the sooner the audition or interview, and the sooner the admission results.

Other Things to Consider

Performing and visual arts colleges that do offer EA and ED usually have special audition/portfolio review days for EA/ED with fewer applicants, so there’s usually more attention given to applicants on those special early dates. For colleges that don’t offer EA or ED, applicants can and should apply as early as possible anyway to secure preferred audition/interview dates, as these are often scheduled on a first come first served basis.

Transfer applicants should note that EA and ED are only options for freshman admissions. And while transfer deadlines are often later than even regular decision deadlines, usually the only audition/interview dates offered follow the freshman admissions timelines. It is critically important to pay attention to audition, portfolio review, and interview requirements for the specific performing/visual arts programs. We always recommend that transfer applicants to arts programs apply by the regular freshman deadlines. 

*Reminder: EA and ED I/II are not always applicable to arts schools or programs; follow specific major requirements and deadlines.

 


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