Restrictive Early Action Schools

July 18, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Restrictive Early Action Schools

Restrictive early action (REA), which is also known as single-choice early action (SCEA), provides an outstanding opportunity for high school seniors who have excelled academically and have their sights set on attending an elite university to demonstrate their dedication to attending that specific institution.

What Is Restrictive Early Action?

Early action is a form of admissions process that is offered by some educational institutions to make admission decisions significantly earlier than the typical response rate.

In order to be considered for early action, students must submit their applications for undergraduate programs by the middle of October or the beginning of November during their senior year of high school. This is earlier than the typical application deadlines of December 1 and January 15.

Now, to get a better understanding, “what is restrictive early action?”

Students who wish to enroll in restrictive early action schools must sign a contract stating that they will submit only one early application to a private school to demonstrate to the college that it is their top choice for higher education.

However, students are able to submit applications to other colleges, either through the regular admissions process or the rolling admissions process. They are also permitted to submit an application at any time to the early application program of a public school or to a college or university located in another country, provided that the requirements of those programs are not binding.

Male student standing beside shelves of books.

Students who wish to participate in REA or SCEA are required to apply to the institution of their choice well in advance, typically at the beginning of November. They should anticipate a decision regarding their application somewhere around the middle of December. Students have until May 1 (the day that universal decision day falls on) to make their choice, even if they are accepted through restrictive early action, which is a non-binding admissions process.

Those who have been accepted to SCEA are not required to make a decision until they have received word on the outcome of their regular admissions applications.

Why Do Schools Have Restrictive Early Action?

When deciding whether or not to submit an application to a college through single-choice early action, it is important to keep in mind the rationale behind the restrictive early action schools’ decision to offer this option. So, why do schools have restrictive early action?

When a student is extended an offer of admission by a college, the institution hopes that the student will take advantage of that offer. A prospective student clearly communicates that the specific college is his or her top choice when they submit an early action application with only one college choice.

Young woman typing in her laptop.

There is really no other way to demonstrate interest more clearly than by applying early, and colleges can significantly improve their yield if they admit students who have clearly demonstrated interest in attending their institution.

Although you are not required to attend the college, it is clear from the message you sent that you intend to give serious consideration to enrolling there. A high yield is extremely valuable to the admissions office because it allows the college to get the students it wants, it allows the college to better predict the size of the incoming class, and it allows the college to rely less on waitlists.

When making admissions decisions, many of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, including the majority of those that offer single-choice early action programs, state that they do not take demonstrated interest into consideration. This may be the case with regards to aspects such as visiting the campus and participating in optional interviews.

However, such schools are acting in an insincere manner when they accept applicants from the early applicant pool at a significantly higher rate than they accept applicants from the regular applicant pool. It is important to show that you have a genuine interest in the institution by submitting your application in a timely manner.

What Schools Have Restrictive Early Action?

Only a few universities and colleges have gone ahead and instituted either restrictive early action or single-choice early action. To show what schools have restrictive early action, let’s take a look at these restrictive early action schools that implement this policy and how each of them defines it:

Princeton University

The single-choice early action program that is used by Princeton University is a process that is not binding. If you are accepted, you have until May 1 to let the school know whether or not you will be enrolling there. If you submit your application for single-choice early action, which is also referred to as restrictive early action, on November 1, you will not be permitted to submit an application for an early program at any other private college or university.

However, take into consideration the following:

  • You have the right to submit your application early to any public institution or military academy, provided that the decision is not final.
  • You are permitted to submit your application to any international organization in advance so long as the decision is not final.
  • You are able to submit your application early to any college or university that uses a rolling admission process that is not binding.

Harvard University

In order to be notified of a decision by the middle of December, interested applicants are encouraged to submit their applications to Harvard by November 1 as part of their Restrictive early action plan. You have until May 1 to respond to their offer of admission if you are accepted into their restrictive early action program, which indicates that if you are admitted, you are under no obligation to attend the school even if you are accepted.

  • If you are applying to Harvard using the restrictive early action plan, you are not allowed to apply to any other private institutions using an early decision, early action, or restrictive early action plan, nor can you apply to a binding early program at a public university. This rule applies even if you are applying to Harvard using the early action plan.
  • You are able to submit an early application to any public university, military academy, or university located outside of the United States that participates in a program that is not binding.
  • In addition, you are able to submit an application to other universities that participate in either their early decision II program or their regular decision program.
  • If your application is deferred during the early action round, you have the option of applying to another college’s binding early decision program (i.e. early decision II).
  • If the timing has been demonstrated to be a necessary aspect for consideration, and the outcome is non-binding, you are permitted to submit an application to another institution, whether it be public or private, for scholarships or special academic programs that have an early deadline.
  • Harvard will meet the full financial need of admitted students regardless of whether they applied early action, which is more selective, or regular decision, which is less selective.

Yale University

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, if you want to apply for single-choice early action at Yale, you cannot also apply for early action or early decision at any other schools at the same time. This is one of the many ways that Yale’s early action plan differs from many other programs.

If you submit an early application to Yale, it is understood that you are indicating that the only EA/ED application you intend to file is Yale’s, with the following exceptions:

  • You have the ability to submit an application to the rolling admission program of any non-binding college.
  • You are permitted to submit an application to any public institution at any time, provided that acceptance is not obligatory.
  • You are permitted to submit an application to the early decision II program of another college; however, the notification of admission must take place after January 1st.
  • You are required to withdraw your application to Yale if you are offered admission to another college through their early decision II binding program.
  • You have the option of submitting an application to the early action II program of another college.
  • You are free to submit an application to any school located outside of the United States at any point in time.

Stanford University

The early application option that is not binding offered by Stanford is called restrictive early action. If you meet all of the criteria listed below, you might want to consider applying for restrictive early action:

  • You have taken a rigorous academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well;
  • You have enough time before the November 1 deadline to write an application that is thoughtful;
  • You have selected Stanford as your top choice;
  • You have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well.

If you submit an application to Stanford using their restrictive early action decision plan, then you are not permitted to submit an application to any other private college or university using their early action, restrictive early action, early decision, or early notification plan. This is because it is Stanford policy.

Main building of Stanford University and a clock tower beside it.

You are not permitted to submit an application to any public university using an early binding plan, such as an early decision, according to the policies of Stanford University. Even if you submit your application to Stanford through their more competitive early action program, you are still free to submit your application to other colleges and universities through their regular decision processes.

In the event that your application to Stanford for restrictive early action is deferred, you have the option of submitting an application to the early decision II program of another college.

The University of Notre Dame

It has both a binding and a non-binding early action program for prospective students.

  • A student who has applied for restrictive early action at Notre Dame is permitted to submit applications to other early action programs at either private or public colleges or universities.
  • A student who has applied for restrictive early action at Notre Dame is not permitted to submit applications to any college or university in their binding early decision program, regardless of whether the institution is private or public.
  • Applying early does not indicate a first-choice preference for the student, and they are free to wait until May 1 to indicate whether or not they will attend the institution.
  • Students will occasionally make the unusual request to change their application from regular decision to restrictive early action, but this happens only very rarely.

If you have already submitted your application for regular decision before the restrictive early action deadline of November 1, you have until November 15 to make this request through the applicant status portal, provided that you have already submitted your application.

Georgetown University

In accordance with this guiding principle, students who wish to apply to Georgetown through the early action program are not permitted to submit applications to any other early decision programs that are binding, as this would restrict their ability to attend Georgetown should they be offered admission.

Students are, however, permitted to apply to other early action or other regular decision programs in addition to Georgetown’s Early Action program. They may also apply to Georgetown’s Early Action program simultaneously.

Does Restrictive Early Action Increase Your Chances?

The students are able to put the college application process behind them if they are accepted into a REA/SCEA program, which enables them to focus their energy on preparing for college and alleviates the stress and uncertainty associated with waiting to hear back from their ideal school. But does restrictive early action increase your chances? The advantages of applying to an REA/SCEA program are as follows:

Students who submit their applications early have a better chance of being accepted into their chosen colleges because admissions officers are better able to identify those applicants who are genuinely enthusiastic about attending the particular school to which they are applying.

Young woman who looks like she is thinking.

Remember that the early applicant pool also includes the most competitive candidates, which gives early admission rates a boost as well.

Students who apply to restrictive early action schools are able to receive an early response from the school that is their top choice. Additionally, this type of early action provides students with the opportunity to compare costs, financial awards, and visit (or revisit) the school before making a final decision.

To tell you the truth, it is extremely challenging to anticipate all of the components that go into the formulation of a specific college’s “acceptance rate.” However, if you want to conduct additional research and attempt to calculate your chances of acceptance beyond that number, there are a few things you should keep in mind before doing so.

  • The first and most important thing you should do is compare your SAT score and grade point average to those that are typical for the institution to which you are applying.
  • Secondly, in order to gain a better understanding of the admissions process of a specific college or university, you should make an effort to calculate the acceptance percentage in comparison to the actual enrollment.
  • Make an effort to obtain some background information concerning the acceptance rate proportion in comparison to the school’s tuition, fees, and financial aid.
  • As a final step, examine how each institution’s acceptance rate stacks up against those of other, comparable schools.

You might have guessed that it would be more difficult to gain admission to a college that has a lower acceptance rate, and you would be correct. This is due to the fact that selective colleges typically have lower acceptance rates, which means that applicants can anticipate a more challenging admissions process.

Is There a Downside to Applying Early Action?

Now that we have tackled the advantages of applying to a restrictive early action program, we should as well discuss, “is there a downside to applying early action?” Let’s take a look at the following points:

  • By November 1st, you will need to have a complete and well-polished application ready to submit. Some applicants are in such a hurry to meet the early deadline that they submit an application that does not do justice to the quality of their best work
  • An early admission program will not allow you to submit applications to any other colleges. You have the ability to submit early applications to multiple schools when you use regular early action.
  • You may receive a letter of rejection in December, which can be disheartening as you continue to work on applications for other colleges and wait for regular admission decisions.

When making admissions decisions, many of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, including the majority of the restrictive early action schools, state that they do not take demonstrated interest into consideration. This may be the case with regards to aspects such as visiting the campus and participating in optional interviews.

However, such schools are acting in an insincere manner when they accept applicants from the early applicant pool at a significantly higher rate than they accept applicants from the regular applicant pool. It is important to show that you have a genuine interest in the institution by submitting your application in a timely manner.

It is in your best interest to submit your application early if you have your sights set on attending college in restrictive early action schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Boston College, or Princeton, or any other college with such a program.

Young woman working on her laptop and holding a cup.

Be sure to have a strong application ready to go by November 1st, and check to see that there are no other early action or early decision colleges that you would rather attend.

Colleges typically offer students a few options for admission, each with a distinct deadline and set of requirements. Deciding which program to apply for would need a long time of consideration and of course, preparation. AdmissionSight is here to guide you and help you in your college admissions. With more than 10 years of experience in guiding students through the tough admissions process, you are surely in good hands. Book your consultation with us.

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