Does Early Action Increase Chances of Admission

May 26, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Does Early Action Increase Chances of Admission

When it comes to applying to some of the most competitive and prestigious universities in the United States, high school students have to weigh their options and their priorities when it comes to applying via early application options.

The two common forms of early applications are early action and early decision. These two options have some major similarities and some major differences that students need to be aware of. However, the most important question that you are likely interested in getting to the bottom of is, “Does early action increase chances of getting into the school of my dreams?”

Female student studying in a table.

The truth is that, for the majority of highly prestigious schools, early admissions options do tend to yield highly favorable acceptance rates compared to the acceptance rates of students that apply via regular decision.

In many cases, the acceptance rate for students that apply via early action can be more than double that of students that apply via regular decision.

But what are the many factors for that, and how can these factors play a role in helping students answer the question, “Is early action better?”

At AdmissionSight, we know that one of the most important tools available to any high school student who is planning on applying to – and getting into – some of the best schools in the country is knowledge.

That means knowledge regarding the overall application process for schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and University of Chicago, as well as knowledge about the particular steps and requirements for specific schools that you want to apply to.

When you are refining your list of schools that you plan on applying to, you will likely find that some – if not all – offer an early action application option. If you are not yet familiar with early action, how it can help a student, and how it compares to early decision, well then you have come to the right place!

Let’s break down everything you need to know about early action, as well as answer the all-important question of, “Does early action increase chances of admission?”

Let’s get started!

How early action works

When it comes to learning about how early action really works, all you have to do is do a quick Google search to get the basic information that you need. We have, of course, done that work for you and also want to take the time to offer AdmissionSight’s overall opinion on the benefits of early action.

Basically, early action is a method of applying that allows high school students to send in their application materials quite a bit earlier than the regular decision deadline.

Typically, students who want to apply to a given school via early action will have to send in their application in its entirety – meaning the application itself, as well as any additional materials (letters of recommendation, test scores, official transcripts, etc.) by the middle of the month of November.

This is quite a bit sooner than the due dates for regular decision applications, which typically lie somewhere in the first week of January.

From there, schools that allow students to apply via early action will typically send students their final decisions in the months of December, January or February and then give students that were admitted until the 1st of May to formally reply to their offers.

Ideally, this discrepancy in time also gives students the time they need to compare all of the financial aid offers that they have received from the schools that they have been accepted to.

On top of that, it is important to know that early action is a nonbinding application type. That is one of the prime differences between early action and early decision.

Non Binding means that students can hypothetically apply to multiple schools via early action and can still choose their top choice out of the schools that they are ultimately accepted into. When it comes to early decision, students can only apply to one school with this option.

Subsequently, if they actually end up getting into that school, they are required to withdraw all of their other applications and enroll at that school. That is what the term “binding” means in regards to the undergraduate application process.

This is why early action is seen as the preferred method of application for many students and admissions consultants alike. While it comes with the benefits of applying early and expressing a clear interest in attending a given school, it does not come with the restrictions that early decision comes with.

Does early action increase chances of admission?

The difference in application deadlines is far from the only difference that exists between regular decision and early action.

Of course, if the main difference was simply that students had to send in their applications early, then it would most likely not be seen as such a great benefit! To put it plainly, the main difference between early action and regular decision is the acceptance rates that students typically are looking at from either.

Take this for example. Imagine you are asking yourself, “Does early action increase chances for Stanford?”

Well, for the class of 2020, the regular decision acceptance rate at Stanford University was just 3.64 percent. That puts it amongst the most competitive schools to get into not only in the United States, but also in the entire world! Just 1,329 students ended up getting in out of the 36,251 students that applied.

However, a very different story unfolds when you look at the acceptance rate for students that applied via early action in that same year.

For the class of 2020, 745 students ended up getting accepted out of 7,822 total students that applied via early action. That’s good for an acceptance rate of 9.52 percent! That’s an acceptance rate that is nearly three times higher than that of the regular decision students!

Though this is just one school, this example should already offer some pretty valuable insight into how helpful applying via early action can be for some students.

Of course, it is important to know that the measuring sticks and expectations of students that apply via early action are in now way lower than those of students who apply via regular decision.

A student with a low grade point average and subpar personal essays is not going to help his or her case simply by applying via early action.

However, if you are already a great candidate to get accepted into Stanford – or a school of similar stature – then applying via early action and making your strong interest in a school clear can definitely help you improve your chances overall.

Is early action better?

When it comes to comparing early action to early decision and regular decision, the conclusion about which option is better depends entirely on the student itself. While early action is a great option for a student who is looking at several different schools as their top option, the binding nature of early decision is likely better for a student who has one specific school at the top of their list.

Female student working on her laptop white sitting on the stairs.

Moreover, neither early action or early decision would be recommended for a student that is simply looking to apply to some safety schools at the end of the application cycle.

It is helpful to apply to several schools via regular decision, because it means that you can get the applications to your top schools out of the way and then focus on your safety school list.

Adding unnecessary pressure and stress to try to get early action applications in for your safety schools is not really needed!

The answer to the question, “Does early action increase chances?” is a definitive yes practically across the board. However, the answer to the question, “Should I apply early?” surely depends on the school that you are thinking about applying to as well as the level of interest that you have in that school.

Colleges and universities where applying via early decision helps

Now that you know a whole heck of a lot about early action, you may be curious about the other early application option, early decision. As you now know, the primary difference between early action and early decision is that while early action is nonbinding, early decision is indeed binding.

That means that if a student applies to a school via early decision and gets in, they are fully expected by that school to withdraw all of their other applications and enroll at the school in which they were accepted.

Typically, the only way to get out of a binding early decision agreement is if the student is unable to receive the necessary financial aid packages to make that school financially viable for themselves and/or their family.

With that in mind, here are the top colleges and universities in the United States where applying via early decision is an option and has been shown to offer more appealing acceptance rates for students:

  • Duke University
  • Brown University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago
  • Cornell University
  • Pomona College
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • Amherst College
  • William & Mary

As you can see, some of the most prestigious and influential schools in the world offer high school students an increased chance of admissions through offering early decision applications.

Moreover, many of the top schools in the world also offer increased chances of getting in through early action. Here are some of the top schools where applying via earl action is an option and has been shown to offer more appealing acceptance rates for students:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Chicago
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Virginia
  • Georgia Institute of Technology

So there you have it! Chances are good that some of – if not all – of your top options when it comes to applying to schools are on one of (and in some cases, both) of those lists. This can help you narrow down which schools you want to apply to via early action, as well as figure out which school – if any – you want to apply to via the binding early decision option.

Should you apply to schools via early action?

Now that you have a really solid understanding of what applying to a college or university via early action, you may be wondering what kinds of students benefit most from going down this route.

Female student walking in front of a building.

Again, students who do not have the grade point averages, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and more that will already give them a good chance of getting into the school are not going to see more favorable outcomes simply by applying via early action. However, a student who feels good about how their application profile will compare to other applicants can give themselves a meaningful leg up through applying via early action.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you go through the trouble of applying via early action of a highly prestigious and selective school.

Are you a highly competitive applicant?

This is the first question that any student thinking about applying via early action should really ask themselves. Early action does tend to offer more appealing acceptance rates for students, but that is only the case for students who already have fantastic application profiles and really check all the boxes of the admissions officers at that school.

Students who want to take full advantage of their decision to apply to his top school via early decision will want to make sure that they have very high grade point averages, a high school curriculum that’s filled with advanced courses such as honors, AP and IB classes, strong letters of recommendation from their high school’s faculty and counselor, personal and well written personal statements, and of course (if required) strong standardized test scores.

Will you be able to fill out the application on time?

This is another really important question to ask yourself and has to do quite a bit with how far along you already are in your key applications.

As you now know, the majority of early action applications are due for students sometime in the month of November. That is quite early considering the fact that regular decision applications are due in January.

Writing in a wooden table using a pen.This is just one of the reasons why AdmissionSight always advises the students that we work with to begin their applications as early as possible. The earlier you get started on your application, the earlier you will be able to send it in!

This does not only refer to getting important documents from your school, but it also refers to having as much time as possible to get the best letters of recommendation from your school’s faculty as well as crafting, editing, and improving your personal essays.

Remember, while your application is an official document, it should also be seen as a representation of yourself. That is especially true when you are applying to some of the most selective schools in the world and so does early action increase chances.

Admissions officers at these kinds of schools look for any and all clues that a student would, or wouldn’t, be a good fit if accepted. The quality and professionalism of the actual application is certainly something that is looked at.

So, making sure that you have the time and energy necessary to craft the best application possible by the shortened deadline is certainly important. If you think the quality of your application will suffer because you are trying to hit that early deadline, then chances are good that you should just wait and apply via regular decision.

Will your schools be able to meet your financial aid needs?

The final thing to keep in mind when you are applying to schools via early action is whether or not these schools have a solid record of offering financial aid.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to not need financial aid, then you do not have to consider this. However, the majority of students are looking for financial aid to ease the burden on their families as well as reduce the need for taking out costly student loans.

A piggy bank with a hat placed on a table with money.Taking a look at a school’s typical financial aid package will offer you insight into how likely it is that you will be able to afford the school if you do indeed get in. Certainly, something to keep in mind if you plan on committing a lot of time and energy to get your application in on time for the early action deadline.

Get more advice on top-tier college admissions

At AdmissionSight, we pride ourselves on having our finger on the pulse of the ever-changing admissions landscape. If you are curious about what kinds of schools offer the most favorable acceptance rates for students that apply via early action, consider contacting us today to set up a free consultation!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.