What Is Early Action For College?

August 12, 2022
By AdmissionSight

What Is Early Action For College?

Early Decision is well-known to the average applicant as a “card to play” in the admissions game. Each party makes a concession in that arrangement: you, the applicant, give up your status as a free agent, and the college frequently gives a candidate on the fence slightly better chances of receiving an acceptance letter. Early Decision is the more popular early-round option, but Early Action is less straightforward and has less of a trade-off than Early Decision. Now, what is early action for college?

Both the applicant and the school make no concessions. It is undoubtedly worthwhile to investigate since it is a tactic where each side gains a slight advantage. In fact, even though it’s a more subdued approach than ED, applying Early Action might be the best course of action to take in order to gain an admissions advantage at the school of your dreams.

With ED, the institution gets to add a reliable freshman to their class and can relax a little bit about their yield rate come spring.

Meanwhile, a candidate who is accepted into EA is not required to attend.

Nevertheless, data demonstrates that those admitted through non-binding EA are frequently more dedicated to the university and are ultimately more likely to enroll than those admitted through the regular round (who is likely applying to a dozen other schools).

As a result, EA does not offer the institution anywhere close to the level of the benefit obtained through ED, but it does give them a slight advantage in their effort to fill their freshman class with qualified, likely-to-enroll applicants.

So, what is early action for college and what benefits could the applicant expect?

It is a well-known fact that submitting an Early Decision application can significantly increase a student’s chances of being admitted. There is still a significant difference between the acceptance rates for Early Decision (ED) applications and Regular Decision applications at many schools, even after taking athletes and legacies into account who frequently benefit from early-round policies. For instance, at American University, 85% of ED applicants are admitted, compared to only 33% of RD applicants; at Middlebury, it is 45% (ED) versus 13% (RD); and at Washington and Lee, it is 43% (ED) versus 16% (RD) (RD).

Although they are not always better than ED rates, Early Action rates are typically better than in the regular round. There are some extremely selective schools where one can have a sizable advantage.

At UNC, compared to just 12 percent of applicants who receive a regular decision, Chapel Hill accepts 28% of EA applicants. The EA admit rate is more than twice as high as the RD rate at Notre Dame and Colorado College. The advantage is insignificant at other institutions, including Babson, MIT, and UVA.

The non-binding early-round acceptance rates at other major research universities, like the University of Miami and Ohio State University, are significantly higher than those in the spring.

If better admissions chances aren’t enough to convince you to think about Early Action, you might also be able to outperform your rivals financially.

Although there are no official differences between financial aid policies for EA and RD, it is a simple fact that there is more money in the school’s coffers in the fall than there will be by the time the regular April deadline arrives.

Therefore, compared to applicants who apply as part of the regular cycle, scholarship offers to EA applicants may occasionally be more generous.

EA applications also have the benefit of being able to apply to any other school they choose if the financial aid offer isn’t satisfactory, unlike Early Decision applications. Naturally, this increases the incentive for schools to make aggressive offers to qualified candidates.

What Does Early Restrictive Action Mean?

Another non-binding choice is restrictive early action. Even if you are accepted, you are not required to go. But what does early restrictive action mean and what does it entail?

You cannot, however, apply to any other schools in the early rounds if you use Restrictive Early Action. A statement stating that the applicant agrees to submit only one early application is required of them.

Applying REA makes it abundantly clear to the school that they are your top choice and can greatly improve your chances of getting accepted. REA applicants have until May 1 to decide, just like EA applicants.

When Are College Applications Due For Early Action?

If your mind is still wondering, “what is early action for college?” It is a non-binding early-round application that even if you receive Early Action status, you are not required to attend. Both Early Action I and Early Action II are common in many schools.

Now, when are college applications due for early action? The deadline for Early Action I is typically in November, and students learn the school’s decision by the middle of December.

Early Action II typically has a January deadline with a 4–8 week response period for applicants.

If you decide to apply early action, you must start your college planning a few months earlier than you would for regular decision deadlines (though getting started early will help you in either case!).

The SAT/ACT, your recommendation letters, and your personal essay are the components that call for particularly early planning. You should also give your guidance office a copy of your transcript request form in the fall and give the Common Application or your school’s individual application plenty of thought.

Here is a quick timeline that demonstrates how to use early action.

First, take the SAT or ACT.

It’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of SAT/ACT test dates if you plan to take the exams.

Retaking the SAT or ACT almost always results in student improvement, especially if focused, targeted test preparation is done between test dates. If you submit an early action application, your final chance to take the ACT is in September, while your final opportunity to take the SAT is in October (both during your senior year). You probably won’t be able to view your scores before deciding whether or not to send them because this is so close to your early action deadline.

Male student answering a test in a table.

It is unquestionably preferable to take the SAT/ACT earlier than this given all the other busy activities that will be taking place in the fall of your senior year. We advise taking the SAT/ACT three times, the first time in the fall of your junior year, the second time in the spring, and the third time (if necessary) in the summer or fall following your junior year.

To achieve your SAT/ACT target scores, consider how much time you can commit to test preparation and how many times you’d like to take the exams. As you can see, SAT/ACT preparation may begin more than a year before the early action deadline!

Request letters of recommendation.

Give your teachers and/or counselor at least a month to write your recommendation letter when it comes to letters of support.

This means that before October 1 of your senior year, you should request your references. A good time to ask is toward the end of your junior year when these teachers will likely remember you the best. They’ll probably be impressed by how well-prepared you are for college applications!

Prepare your college essay and start writing.

You should take your time planning and writing your personal essay and any other supplemental essays, just like you would with letters of recommendation.

Male student writing an essay in a room.

I suggest working on it throughout the summer. You can start coming up with possible essay topics by simply reading the essay prompts. Once your essay is ready for submission, you can spend a few months drafting, receiving feedback, and revising it.

Complete your application.

Finally, you can finish up the rest of your application in September and October by proofreading every piece of the information therein and crafting an engaging essay about your extracurricular activities.

By beginning the application process in the spring of your junior year (earlier still if you’re taking the SAT/ACT), you’ll be certain to have a well-thought-out application by November.

How Many Early Action Applications Are There?

You might be interested to take the early action route, now, how many early action applications are there? Most early action colleges allow you to submit as many applications as you like; however, a small number of institutions only allow you to submit early action applications to those institutions. (Note that regular decision may still be used elsewhere.)

Harvard, Stanford, and Yale are among the universities with stringent early action policies.

There are a lot of early action schools, but does applying early to a school give you a benefit? Yes, to answer briefly.

Applying early can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the institution and your dedication to attending. Additionally, in order to increase yield, schools frequently accept more early decision applicants than regular decision applicants. The percentage of applicants who accept their offers of admission is referred to as yield.

Early action applicants are more likely to accept an offer of admission because they are serious about attending that school. A school’s yield will be higher the more applicants they have who accept their offers of admission. Additionally, it will be simpler to forecast enrollment figures and avoid having to create a waitlist the higher a school’s yield.

However, even though early action students typically represent some of the most competitive applicants, applying early doesn’t always make low grades or SAT/ACT scores look better.

When Are Early Action Decisions Released?

You applied for early action in your chosen college but when are early action decisions released?

The most typical early action deadlines are November 1 and November 15.

These deadlines are rigid; you must submit all of your materials, including test results and letters of recommendation, to the school by the specified date. You will receive notification of the admissions decision early because you submitted your application early. You should find out if you were accepted, denied, or deferred before you take your winter break since the most frequent notification date is in the middle of December.

Another distinctive aspect of applying early action is the potential for your application to be postponed.

The admissions committee may move your application to the regular decision pool and review it again in January or February if the early applicant pool is particularly competitive. If your application is deferred but you are still very interested in the school, you could call the admissions office and inquire about any additional materials you can submit to support your submission before the next review.

Class of 2026 Early Decision/Early Action Notification

Colleges and universities across the nation struggled to adhere to their regular timelines after the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects last year. Some schools moved up their early decision notification dates, giving applicants more time to decide.

Female student walking in the hallway.

To give some students more time to submit their applications, other schools pushed back their notification dates.

Both changes had advantages and disadvantages.

Early action notification dates will be sent to the Class of 2026 in accordance with the customary yearly schedule. Public and private colleges and universities have adhered to a largely consistent schedule for many years. Students can anticipate receiving their early decision notification dates in the middle of December after submitting their early action or early decision applications on or before November 1st.

For the vast majority of the colleges on this list, that is exactly what you will observe. It’s crucial to remember that even though these dates are official, they are not fixed in stone. Many colleges and universities note that these dates are tentative so that applicants are aware of this.

It is important to note the pertinent dates on your calendar, but you should be aware that you might not get your early decision or early action decision on the precise day mentioned here.

To inform applicants, some colleges and universities will announce official date changes. Following the schools you’re applying to carefully will keep you informed of any changes to the early decision notification deadlines. If there is a newsletter, subscribe to it!

You can anticipate that as December approaches, these changes will become more precise and reliable as colleges have had more time to perfect their admissions timelines.


EA/ED Notification Date

Boston College Dec-03
William & Mary Dec-07
Emory University Dec-09
Rice University Dec-10
Amherst College Dec-11
Harvey Mudd College Dec-11
Stanford University Dec-11
Williams College Dec-11
Carnegie Mellon University Dec-12
Wellesley College Dec-12
Wesleyan University Dec-12
Georgetown University Dec-13
Barnard College Dec-14
Boston University Dec-14
Washington University in St. Louis Dec-14
Purdue University Jan-15
Rutgers University Feb-15
Brandeis University Dec-15
Columbia University Dec-15
Hamilton College Dec-15
Swarthmore University Dec-15
Virginia Tech Dec-15
Dartmouth College Dec-16
University of Notre Dame Dec-16
University of Pennsylvania Dec-16
Brown University Dec-17
Cornell University Dec-17
Harvard University Dec-17
Duke University Dec-18
Northwestern University Dec-18
MIT Dec-19
University of Chicago Dec-21
University of Texas at Austin By Feb 1
University of Wisconsin By Jan 31
University of Illinois at Chicago Dec 1 (EA)
University of Miami Dec 11 (ED) / Late January (EA)
Bowdoin College Dec 11 (ED) / Mid-Feb (EDII)
Johns Hopkins University Dec 11 (ED) and Feb 1 (EA)
University of Virginia Dec 11 / Mid-Feb (EA)
Middlebury College Dec 12(ED) and Mid-Feb (ED-II)
Cal Tech -Dec 13
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Dec 14 (ED) / Jan 15 (EA) / Feb 15 (ED-II)
Pomona College Dec 15 (ED I) and Feb 15 (ED II)
Vanderbilt University Dec 15 (ED I) and Feb 15 (ED II)
Villanova University Dec 15 (ED I), Jan 29 (EA) and Mar 1 (ED II)
Oberlin College Dec 15 (ED) / Feb 1 (ED-II)
Occidental College Dec 15 (ED) / Feb 20 (ED-II)
University of Richmond Dec 15 (ED) / Jan 25 (EA) / Feb 15 (ED-II)
New York University (NYU) Dec 15 (ED-I) and Feb 15 (ED-II)
Yale University Dec 16 (EA)
George Washington University Dec 17 (ED)
Tulane University Dec 17 (ED) / Jan 15 (EA)
Fordham University Dec 19 (ED & EA)
Bates College Dec 20 (ED) / Feb 15 (EDII)
Clark University Dec 20 (ED) / Jan 20 (EA) / Feb 20 (ED-II)
Penn State Dec 24 (EA)
GeorgiaTech Dec 4 for In-State / Mid-January for Nout-of-State (EA 2)
Case Western University Dec 7 (ED) / Dec 22 (EA)
Northeastern University Dec 9 (ED) / Feb 1 (EA)
University of Maryland Feb 1 (EA)
Clemson College Feb 15 (EA)
Indiana University Bloomington Jan 15 (EA)
Mount Holyoke College Late Dec (ED-I) and Late Jan (ED-II)
Cooper Union Late December
Davidson College Late December
Santa Clara University Late December
Bentley University Late December (ED) / February 1, 2022 (EDII)
University of Michigan Late January
University of North Carolina (UNC) Late January (EA)
Babson College Mid-Dec (ED) / Jan 1 (EA)
University of San Francisco Mid-December
Tufts University Mid-December (ED I) and Mid-February (ED II)
Colgate University Mid-December (ED)
Grinnell College Mid-December (ED)
Smith College Mid-December (ED)
Southern Methodist University Mid-December (ED)
University of Rochester Mid-December (ED) / Early February (ED-II)
Princeton University Mid-December (SCEA)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Mid-Feb
University of Georgia Nov 20 (EA)
University of South Carolina N/A

What Is Early Action Vs. Regular Decision?

Not sure about what is Early Action for college? How about trying the Regular Decision college application?

A senior in high school list the benefits and drawbacks of each admission choice. Students may start to wonder what kind of application they should submit when applying to colleges as their senior year of high school draws near. You had no idea there were different ways to apply to colleges. Options include Early Action, Regular Decision, and Early Decision.

Female student using a laptop and holding a paper.

What is early action vs. regular decision? This should make it easier to distinguish and for you to decide which options are best for you and to plan for college admission.

Pros of Regular Decision

The application deadline for Regular Decision applicants will be postponed (typically anywhere from early December to late January).

If you want to improve your score on the ACT or SAT to improve your chances of getting accepted or to qualify for more scholarships, this might be your best option. Additionally, applying Regular Decision gives you more time to polish your college essay.

If you are torn between a few majors, choosing to apply Regular Decision can give you more time to figure out what you want to study. However, you also have the option to apply as undecided and explore your options in college.

Cons of Regular Decision

You might not hear back from the college or university if you apply for Regular Decision until the spring or at the end of the academic year. The fact that you will be packing your bags and leaving in about three months may make graduation season a little busier. Deciding where to go to college in the late spring may increase the pressure of AP exams and finals.

Early Action Pros

A decision on your admission is typically mailed to you by the middle of December if you applied for Early Action. As a result, you can complete your college applications in your first semester of high school and devote your second semester to things like scholarships.

In comparison to Early Decision, which is like signing a “binding contract” with the college/university, applying Early Action is also regarded as “non-binding,” so if accepted, you are not required to attend that college. If you go that route, it’s best to select this option for your top-choice college because applying Early Decision is similar to applying Early Action, but if accepted, you must attend that college/university.

What is early action for college’s main benefit? You can find out if you’re accepted while still having until May 1 to make a final decision. As a senior in high school, submitting Early Action applications can give you a better idea of where you will be going by Christmas.

This seems appropriate for you because it will be nice to have a future planned before concentrating on doing well in the second semester of your senior year.

Cons of Early Action

When applying for Early Action, the deadline is one to two months earlier than when applying Regular Decision.

Since most colleges’ essay prompts are released on August 1 regardless of how you are applying, college essays must also be written and edited quickly. Additionally, the pool of applicants for Early Action at some colleges may have test scores that are higher than the average for the college/university, making admission more difficult.

The Early Action applicant pool at the University of Notre Dame is one illustration of this:

A friend wanted to submit an Early Action application, but admissions informed her that it would be more likely for her to be accepted if she submitted a Regular Decision application.

The possibility of being deferred (declined as an Early applicant but not yet denied) and having your application reviewed again after the Regular Decision deadline is another thing to keep an eye out for.

While some colleges and universities might, others might not. Ask the admissions office if you will be given another chance to have your application considered if you are rejected as an Early applicant.

Which One Will You Pick?

The various application options depend on the college you’re applying to, so keep that in mind.

Others may have a rolling deadline and start mailing decisions two weeks after receiving your application, while some colleges might only offer Regular Decision and Early Action. For example, applications for the two universities you applied to open on August 1; decisions were made just a few weeks later, and all applications were placed in the same pool.

Female student using a laptop.

Check out the undergraduate admissions pages of your top schools to learn more about the types of applications accepted and the deadlines associated with each to avoid being surprised by the fact that not all colleges and universities have the same deadlines.

If you are not aware yet of the early and regular admissions process and still have questions like “what is early action for college?” or “what admission should I choose”, feel free to contact AdmissionSight right away. We have more than ten years of experience helping students get accepted into the best universities in the world by guiding them through the difficult admissions process. Book your consultation with AdmissionSight now.

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