Apply Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) for Music?

Not all schools offer the option to apply Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) for music.

But for those that do, it’s vitally important to research ED and EA before applying.

What does Early Decision mean for a music applicant?

• Apply earlier than the regular decision time – typically in November (up to a month earlier). 

• Receive notification about acceptance early, typically in December.

• ED is binding. You, your parents or legal guardians, and your high school counselor sign an agreement stating you are committed to attending the school you’re applying to ED if you get an acceptance. 

• If you accept an ED offer, you must withdraw all other applications and forfeit any outstanding auditions. 

• You may need to send a nonrefundable deposit before May 1 to the school you’re accepted to ED.

• Since ED is binding, apply to only one school as an ED applicant. Apply to other schools as a regular admission applicant.

• You won’t know what merit and other financial assistance will be offered until after you’re accepted.

Who is a good candidate for applying Early Decision?

• Students who are confident in their first-choice school.

• Students whose GPA fits with the school where they’re applying. 

• Students who believe the school matches their own criteria for choosing a “good fit” school. 

• Students who find the financial obligation manageable if they are accepted to their ED choice, since they won’t know the merit and other financial assistance they’ll be offered when they apply.

Upsides of applying early

• The application ordeal is over sooner assuming you’re accepted. 

• Fewer applications to fill out save time and expense.

• If you’re not accepted, you’ll know sooner so you can rethink your plans and apply elsewhere. 

Downsides of applying ED

• Lack of time and/or financial means to visit schools early to decide where to apply ED.

• Inability to compare scholarship and financial aid offers before you’re accepted.

• Not knowing for sure what your cost of attendance will be until your acceptance comes through and any scholarships/financial aid offers are clarified.

• Not being able to compare and contrast financial offers from other schools if accepted ED.

Note that some schools offer a binding ED2, where the deadline for applying is later than ED1, sometimes as late as the regular decision application deadline. Other schools offer non-binding ED2. Be sure you know the expectations of each school before you apply!

What about Early Action?

• Early Action is not binding. 

• Apply early but not as early as ED.

• Receive notification typically in January or February about whether you’re accepted.

• Apply to other schools under regular admission plans.

Does applying early increase your chance of acceptance?

Not necessarily, especially in music. This is a good question to ask the admissions office at each school you’re considering, since every school is different.

Some schools that offer ED and/or EA will not accept you early but will instead re-evaluate your application during the regular admissions timeframe. 

Don’t let your guard down after applying early!

Students who think they can let their academics slide once they’re accepted early could be in for a rude awakening. There are instances where schools have rescinded their offers to students who let their academics go or who got into trouble with the law after applying early.

What if you change your mind after being accepted ED?

This gets tricky. You’ve signed a binding contract. Unless you can demonstrate that you cannot afford the school after they’ve offered financial assistance, you’re obligated. Should the school decide to let you out of the ED, you’ll definitely lose your deposit. And you won’t be able to apply early decision to another school until the next application cycle.

Thank you to the following for contributing to this article:

Megan Grady, Director of Recruitment & Enrollment
Carnegie Mellon University School of Music

Amanda Harrington, Former Admissions Coordinator
Boston University School of Music

Molly Jewell, Associate Director of Admissions
Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music

Mary Kate Smith, Director of Admissions
Lawrence University Conservatory of Music

Photo by: Desola Lanre-Ologun 


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