Many colleges have early admissions programs, which let interested students apply early and get a decision sooner than they normally would. Applying for early admission at a college might increase your chances of being accepted, but be aware that it might limit your choices. You may or may not be required to commit to that college before you’ve heard back from other schools. Make sure you know exactly what the rules are before you apply.

Application deadlines for early admissions are usually in October or November of a student’s senior year. There are different kinds of early admissions programs—the two main types are early decision and early action:

Early decision is binding, which means you can only apply to that one college as early decision, and you must attend that college if you’re accepted and they offer you enough financial aid. You can still apply to other colleges under the regular admissions process, but you must withdraw other applications if you’re accepted to your early decision school. Early decision is restrictive, but it can be a good way to get into your first-choice school.

Early action is non-binding, so you can apply to several colleges in this manner, and you can choose to accept or decline admissions offers. With early action, you can give your answer right away or wait until spring to decide. Early action can help you know your options early in the admissions process, without binding commitments.

Applying early isn’t right for everyone. Some students may need the extracurricular activities and extra coursework of senior year to distinguish themselves on an application, so waiting may be advisable.

Consider your financial situation as well. Students who need financial aid might not get to compare as many offers if they apply this way. It’s always a good idea to talk with a school counselor or college admissions counselor before applying.