NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Early admission applicants know exactly what school they want to go to. But they may give universities an opportunity to exploit that single-minded ambition by delivering less aid than anticipated. Would-be students may not know how much they're getting until it's too late.

There are two types of early admission: early decision and early action. Early decision involves a commitment to attend. Early action does not.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisor's Network, recommends against early decision. "The problem with early decision is that you're making a commitment to attend before knowing about the financial aid package," he said, while shutting out colleges that might give you a better deal.

"There's no up-front pricing," he says. You don't know how much the college will cost until after you are admitted. The net price calculators are a step in the direction of providing early information about the net price, but the information it provides is only an estimate."

Most schools will let you out of and early decision commitment if you seriously can't go. But by then it may be too late if, in the pursuit of a dream school, you haven't applied to other colleges. While Kantrowitz says that early admission applicants seem to get the same types and amounts of financial aid as students in a college's regular admission pool, "early admission students tend to self-select into a more talented and wealthier group, and so are more likely to be admitted and less likely to get financial aid."

Kantrowitz recommends applying to multiple colleges to increase the chances of securing aid. "In addition to the usual mix of safety, reach and good match schools, students should also apply to at least one financial aid safety school," he said. "A financial aid safety school is a college that not only will admit the student, but where the student could afford to attend even if he or she got no financial aid other than loans."

The Princeton Review's "Early Decision – Financial Aid" Web page counsels applicants to follow the money — their own.

While the benefit is that you can be admitted to your first choice before the holidays there is a distinct drawback: "You must wait until January 1 to apply for federal student aid. And while you wait, application deadlines for other schools start to pass. When your award finally arrives, if it doesn't adequately cover your need, your options are few." Freshman classes at other schools will be filling up, and the aid pool will be getting smaller.

This highlights the benefit of early action. "Early action is non–binding," says Princeton Review. "You get an acceptance, but still have time to compare several award packages."