There are advantages and disadvantages to applying to college using the early decision (ED) option. The two big advantages are that you can increase your odds of admission and you get the decision as many as three months earlier than regular admission. Knowing in December where you will attend college in the fall can alleviate the stress that is typically felt by high school seniors and their families while waiting for college decisions. The disadvantage to ED is that it is binding, meaning that you must attend if you are accepted. The only exception to this is when another school offers you a greater financial aid package that your ED school cannot match. I can tell you based on personal experience that many students have buyer’s remorse after being accepted at their ED school. They wish they had rolled the dice with hopes of getting into other colleges on their list. So, this decision should not be taken lightly. Typically, an ED school should be a “reach” or “strong target” school for you as opposed to a safety. Furthermore, it should be a school in which ED provides a much greater chance of admission.
Another disadvantage to both ED and EA is that your senior year grades beyond the first semester will not be taken into account. That may be fine for students who have a very strong GPA going into senior year. However, for students who were hoping to bump up their GPA prior to applying to college, they will not have that opportunity if they apply using ED or EA.