Early action

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Early action (EA) is a type of early admission process offered by some institutions for admission to colleges and universities in the United States. Unlike the regular admissions process, EA usually requires students to submit an application by mid-October or early November of their senior year of high school instead of January 1. Students are notified of the school's decision by early January instead of mid-March or May 1.

In this way, it is similar to many colleges' Early Decision (ED) programs. Some colleges offer both ED and EA. ED, however, is a binding commitment to enroll; that is, if accepted under ED, the applicant must withdraw all other applications and enroll at that institution. Thus, ED does not allow applicants to apply to more than one ED school simultaneously. Early Action, on the other hand, allows candidates to decline the offer if accepted, and depending on the program, it may be possible for a candidate to apply to one or more EA schools, plus one ED school. EA can be the best choice for students who know they prefer one particular school since a student will know the result of the application sooner,[1] and to varying extents allows a student to compare aid offers from different schools.[2][3]


Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia dropped all early admissions processes (which were binding early admission programs) in 2007. The primary reason was a perception that early admission favored some candidate types:

Until 2006, UVA offered an “early decision” program, in which students applied early in exchange for a binding commitment to attend if accepted. The program was abolished in 2007 amid concerns that the early decision application pool lacked racial and socioeconomic diversity.[4]

All three reversed course in February 2011, restoring an early-admission program, though less restrictive than previous offerings.[5][6] Yale University and Stanford University switched from early decision to restrictive single-choice early action in the fall of 2002 (for the Class of 2007).[7] Schools that offer non-restrictive early action include UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, Villanova University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology. The University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University also offer early action plans containing various restrictions, but less restrictive than single choice.[8][9]

EA drives a large volume of applications (helping to lower the school's admission rate and increasing its selectivity) but hurts the admission yield (many admitted students are free to go elsewhere). For applications subsequent to fall 2019 (for the Class of 2024+), Boston College eliminated its non-binding EA plan in favor of a new ED plan.[10] Chicago also has adopted ED plans starting with the Class of 2021 but unlike Boston College, Chicago decided to maintain its EA plan. Virginia has also decided to add an ED plan to its EA offering beginning with the Class of 2024.[11]


There are two types of EA programs: restrictive early action and non-restrictive early action.[12] Restrictive Early Action (REA) allows candidates to apply to only one early action institution and to no institutions for early decision, while there are no such restrictions on non-restrictive early action. Regardless, the applicant is still permitted to reject any offer of admission in both types of early action.

The rules or policies for Early Action vary widely across schools and it is important for the applicant to be aware of any restrictions.

  • Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have a Single-Choice Early Action program (SCEA), which restricts the applicant to apply early action to one school and generally prohibits application to any binding early admission programs.
  • Stanford has a Restrictive Early Action (REA) policy which prohibits applying to any private schools under their early program (binding or non binding) and prohibits applying to any public universities under a binding program - but a deferred EA applicant may apply under Early Decision II to other schools.[13]
  • Notre Dame and Georgetown offer a restrictive, but not single-choice early action program, allowing the applicant to apply elsewhere as long as the other application is not of a binding nature that would not commit the student to attending the other college.
  • MIT has a non-binding EA plan, but it states that while students are free to apply to early plans or binding ED plans elsewhere, "MIT requires that you respect those rules" in effect at the other schools with regard to those applications (emphasis in original).[14] As an example, a student applying under Restrictive Early Action to Stanford would be violating the Stanford policy by applying Early Action to MIT also. Caltech has a similar EA plan which permits the applicant to "apply to as many other schools as you wish as long as you are not violating their policies."[15]
  • The majority of schools offering EA use an unrestricted EA plan but because of the unrestricted nature, these EA plans receive a very large number of applications and the admission rate for this pool is correspondingly low. As of 2019, schools with unrestricted EA plan include Chicago, Tulane, Villanova, Michigan, Georgia Tech, UNC-Chapel Hill, Virginia, Colorado College and a few others. For example, Colorado College reveals that for the Class of 2023, its ED pool had an admit rate of 27%, but its EA pool had only a 15% admit rate, compared to 5% for Regular Decision (overall admit rate was 13.5%)[16]

Admission rate[edit]

Whereas the admission rate for ED tends to be much higher than the rate for Regular Decision (RD) at most schools, EA generally does not offer much of an admissions edge because it is non-binding.[17] EA drives a large volume of applications (helping to lower the school's admission rate and increasing its selectivity) but hurts the admission yield (many admitted students are free to go elsewhere).

The EA admission rate is notably higher at some public institutions, however. The EA admit rate for the Class of 2022 for Georgia Tech, UNC and Virginia was 25.8%, 30.4% and 27.8%, compared to the overall admit rate of 22.6%, 21.9% and 26.4% respectively with a majority of applicants applying through EA rather than Regular Decision.

At the more restrictive EA schools, there is a significant difference in admit rate between EA and RD. In that sense, SCEA or REA is comparable to ED in having a significantly higher admit rate. These schools likely recognize that their SCEA or REA applicants are "giving up" an early application at another school.

Admit Rates for Class of 2023, Early Action v Regular Decision
Source: University publications and news releases (figures subject to change)
School Total App-
EA App-
RD Applicants
EA Apps)[18]
Harvard[19][20] 43330 2009 4.6% 6958 935 13.4% 36372 1074 3.0%
Yale 36844 2269 6.2% 6069 794 13.1% 30775 1475 4.8%
Princeton 32804 1896 5.8% 5335 743 13.9% 27469 1153 4.2%
Stanford[21] 47452 2071 4.4% n.a. 750 n.a. n.a. 1321 n.a.
MIT 21312 1427 6.7% 9600 707 7.4% 11712 720 6.1%
Georgetown 22788 3202 14.1% 7802 919 11.8% 14986 2283 15.2%
Notre Dame 22199 3516 15.8% 7317 1532 20.9% 14882 1984 13.3%
Georgia Tech 36936 ~6944 18.8% 20289 ~4000 19.7% 16647 ~2944 17.7%
Georgia Tech (in State) - - 37.7% - - 39.6% - - -
Georgia Tech (out of State) - - 14.9% - - 14% - - -
UNC-CH[21] 43473 9524 21.9% 25867 7867 30.4% 17606 1657 9.4%
UNC-CH (in State)[21] 13932 5699 40.9% ~10650 5125 48% ~3282 574 17.5%
UNC-CH (out of State)[21] 29541 3825 12.9% ~15217 2742 18% ~14324 1083 7.6%
Michigan 65716 14949 22.7% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Virginia[22][23] 40869 9787 23.9% 25126 6550 26.1% 15743 3237 20.6%
Virginia (in State) 12010 4331 36.1% 7019 3051 43.5% 4991 1280 25.6%
Virginia (out of State) 28859 5456 18.9% 18079 3499 19.4% 10780 1957 18.2%

According to Uni in the USA, "The advantage [of early action applications] is you will know much earlier and can plan accordingly. The disadvantage is that candidates who apply this way tend to be much stronger and rejection is more likely than in the regular admission pool."[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diana Hanson; Esther Walling; Craig Meister; Kristen Tabun (November 16, 2011). "Which College Admissions Deadline Should You Choose?". US News. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  2. ^ Sarah Winkler (July 7, 2012). "How Early Decision Affects Financial Aid". HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  3. ^ Carolyn Butler, Arlene Weintraub, Justin Snider, Margaret Loftus, Rett Fisher, Kimberly S. Wetzel (others) (2012). "Best Colleges: Choose the Right School For You". U.S. News & World Report. 2012 edition; various authors and rankings; pages 19, 20, 30, 62, 63, 68–70, 78, 84, 86, 88, others{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Early Action". Archived from the original on 2019-09-24. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  5. ^ Scott Jaschik (February 25, 2011). "Elite universities surrender to early admissions". USA Today. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  6. ^ Beckie Supiano (February 2011). "Harvard and Princeton Restore Early Admissions". Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Farewell, Early Decision". stanfordmag.org. January 2003. Archived from the original on 2018-11-10. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "Restrictive Early Action & Regular Decision". admissions.nd.edu. Archived from the original on 2019-09-24. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  9. ^ "Early Action Program". uadmissions.georgetown.edu. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  10. ^ "BC to launch Early Decision program in undergraduate admission". Boston College. Jan 24, 2019. Retrieved Aug 29, 2019.
  11. ^ "UVA Adds Early Decision Option for Prospective Applicants". news.virginia.edu. 29 May 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-09-22. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  12. ^ Jennifer Gross and Nicole Verardi (May 2006). "NACAC Early Decision and Early Action: Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?". The National Association for College Admission Counseling. Archived from the original on 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  13. ^ "Stanford University Undergraduate Admissions". July 23, 2019. Retrieved Aug 29, 2019.
  14. ^ "MIT Admissions, Early vs Regular". Retrieved Aug 29, 2019.
  15. ^ "Caltech Undergraduate Admissions". www.admissions.caltech.edu/. Archived from the original on 2018-10-15. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  16. ^ "Class of 2022". www.coloradocollege.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-03-23. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  17. ^ Margaret Loftus (September 12, 2011). "Know if Applying to College Early is Right for You: Getting in could be easier, but a search for financial aid might suffer". US News. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  18. ^ This number is derived as Total Applicants less EA Applicants. In practice, the deferred EA Applicants will join the Regular Decision pool for consideration and can become an RD Admit, so the Regular Decision pool is larger than this number.
  19. ^ "935 admitted early to College Class of '23". 13 December 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-12-14. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  20. ^ "43,330 apply to College Class of '23". 21 February 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-02-22. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  21. ^ a b c d Class of 2022. Figures for Class of 2023 not yet released as of Sep 24, 2019
  22. ^ "Unofficial Admission Statistics for the #UVA Class of 2023". Archived from the original on 2019-09-24. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  23. ^ "Unofficial #UVA23 Early Action Statistics". Archived from the original on 2019-01-20. Retrieved Sep 21, 2019.
  24. ^ "Study Abroad Grants | Study Abroad Funding | University in the USA". Archived from the original on 2013-09-26. Retrieved 2013-02-13.