The Complete 2022 List of The Best Early Decision Colleges

If you're considering applying to early decision colleges, it's important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the process. Find out more here.

If you're certain about where you want to attend college and you have an impressive academic track record, early decision could increase your chances of acceptance. There are many early decision colleges across the U.S. that allow you to apply and receive an admissions decision before most other college students.

But there are also some potential drawbacks to keep in mind, especially if you're not completely sure where you want to attend. Here's what you need to know about the early decision process and colleges with early decision options.

What is early decision?

The early decision process allows prospective college students to apply early and get a response from their first-choice school before most other applicants. 

The trade-off is that if you apply and get accepted, you're obligated to attend that school. And because the agreement is binding, you can't submit similar applications to other schools unless your application is rejected. You also may be deferred to the regular application pool for a later decision. If that happens, you're no longer bound to attend if you get accepted.

On the one hand, this process is great for high school students who know where they want to attend and have a strong academic resume. On the other, though, it means you have to be sure about your decision, and you won't get the option to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools.

Of course, if there's a serious issue with the financial aid offer you receive, you can back out in some cases. But it's generally not a good idea to renege on your end of the agreement.

Depending on the school, you may get early decision I and II. Early decision I applications are typically due in November, and you'll receive a response in December. The second option offers a later application deadline in January, giving you a little more time to decide if the process is right for you and to prepare your application.

Early decision colleges by state

Not all universities offer early decision to incoming students. In fact, there are many states with no early decision colleges at all, according to PrepScholar. They are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. 

If you're thinking about attending a school in another state, here's a list of options that offer early decision applications. The asterisk indicates colleges with early decision I and II.


  • Birmingham-Southern College


  • Claremont McKenna College*
  • Harvey Mudd College*
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Occidental College*
  • Pitzer College*
  • Pomona College*
  • Santa Clara University*
  • Scripps College*
  • University of San Francisco


  • Colorado College*


  • Connecticut College*
  • Fairfield University*
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Sacred Heart University
  • Trinity College*
  • University of New Haven
  • Wesleyan University*

District of Columbia

  • American University*
  • Catholic University of America*
  • George Washington University*


  • Flagler College
  • Florida Southern College
  • Rollins College*
  • University of Miami*


  • Agnes Scott College
  • Emory University*
  • Spelman College


  • Augustana College
  • Lake Forest College*
  • Moody Bible Institute
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago*


  • DePauw University
  • Saint Mary's College
  • Wabash College


  • Grinnell College*


  • Centre College


  • Tulane University*


  • Bates College*
  • Bowdoin College*
  • Colby College*
  • College of the Atlantic*


  • Johns Hopkins University*
  • Maryland Institute College of Art
  • McDaniel College*
  • Salisbury University
  • Washington College


  • Amherst College
  • Babson College*
  • Boston College*
  • Bentley University*
  • Boston University*
  • Brandeis University*
  • Clark University*
  • College of the Holy Cross*
  • Merrimack College
  • Mount Holyoke College*
  • Northeastern University*
  • Smith College*
  • Springfield College*
  • Stonehill College*
  • Tufts University*
  • Wellesley College*
  • Wheaton College*
  • Williams College


  • Hillsdale College
  • Kalamazoo College*


  • Carleton College*
  • Hamline University
  • Macalester College*
  • St. Olaf College*


  • Cox College (nursing program only)
  • Washington University in St. Louis*


  • Nebraska Wesleyan University (medical or dental school only)

New Hampshire

  • Dartmouth College

New Jersey

  • The College of New Jersey*
  • Drew University*
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey
  • Stevens Institute of Technology*

New York

  • Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Bard College
  • Barnard College
  • Clarkson University
  • Colgate University*
  • Columbia University
  • Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
  • Cornell University
  • Fordham University
  • Hamilton College*
  • Hartwick College
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges*
  • Ithaca College
  • Jewish Theological Seminary*
  • Manhattan College
  • Marist College*
  • Nazareth College
  • New York University*
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute*
  • Rochester Institute of Technology*
  • Sarah Lawrence College*
  • Siena College
  • Skidmore College*
  • St. John Fisher College
  • St. Lawrence University
  • SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • SUNY Geneseo*
  • SUNY Maritime College
  • Syracuse University
  • Union College*
  • University of Rochester
  • Vassar College*
  • Webb Institute
  • Wells College

North Carolina

  • Davidson College*
  • Duke University
  • Elon University
  • High Point University*
  • Meredith College
  • Wake Forest University*
  • Warren Wilson College


  • Case Western Reserve University*
  • College of Wooster*
  • Denison University*
  • Kenyon College*
  • Miami University
  • Oberlin College and Conservatory*
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Wittenberg University


  • Lewis & Clark College
  • Reed College*


  • Allegheny College*
  • Bryn Mawr College*
  • Bucknell University*
  • Carnegie Mellon University*
  • Dickinson College*
  • Drexel University
  • Duquesne University (School of Law Only)
  • Franklin & Marshall College*
  • Gettysburg College*
  • Grove City College*
  • Haverford College*
  • Juniata College
  • Lafayette College*
  • Lehigh University*
  • Lycoming College
  • Muhlenberg College*
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Susquehanna University
  • Swarthmore College*
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Ursinus College*
  • Washington & Jefferson College

Rhode Island

  • Brown University
  • Bryant University*
  • Providence College*
  • Rhode Island School of Design

South Carolina

  • Furman University*
  • Wofford College


  • Rhodes College*
  • Sewanee: University of the South*
  • Vanderbilt University*


  • Austin College
  • Rice University
  • Southern Methodist University*
  • Texas Christian University
  • Trinity University*


  • Bennington College*
  • Champlain College
  • Middlebury College*


  • Christopher Newport University
  • College of William and Mary*
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • Hollins University
  • Lynchburg College
  • Roanoke College
  • University of Richmond*
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Military Institute
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
  • Washington and Lee University*


  • University of Puget Sound
  • Whitman College*


  • Beloit College
  • Lawrence University

The bottom line

If you're considering early decision colleges, it's important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages of the early decision process. Without the ability to compare financial aid offers, it's also critical that you start thinking about how you'll pay for school.

Scholarships, grants and work-study programs can help you cover a large portion of your expenses, but it may also be necessary to consider student loans. 

For most undergraduate students, it's best to start with federal loans because they charge lower interest rates, offer certain benefits and don't require a credit check. But if you've exhausted your allotment of federal loans, join Juno to get help negotiating lower interest rates on your private undergraduate student loans. We'll even give you cash to make up the difference if you find a better deal elsewhere.

Ben Luthi
Written By
Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer based in Salt Lake City, UT. He loves helping people better understand their finances. When he's not traveling, Ben enjoys spending time with his kids, hiking, and watching films. His work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, MarketWatch, Fox Business, and many other publications.

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