Considering Applying Early? Here’s What You Need to Know


Several colleges and universities in the United States offer prospective students the unique opportunity to apply for early admission. Applying for early admission can be beneficial for many reasons including:

  • Admissions decisions may be released by January 1 instead of in March and April
  • Acceptance rates can be higher for both Early Decision and Early Action applications
  • Scholarship awards can be more generous for Early Action applications
  • If you are happy with your early acceptance, you may not need to apply to additional universities

Options for Early Admission:

Early admission can generally be broken into three categories: Early Decision, Early Action (nonrestrictive), and Restrictive Early Action.

Early Decision (ED):

  • Applicant may not apply to more than one college or university offering ED, but may apply to other schools offering non-restrictive Early Action
  • Applicant receives an early admission decision that it is binding (meaning the student must attend that university if admitted)
  • ED applicants may apply to additional colleges through a Regular Decision (RD) application, but must withdraw those RD applications if accepted through ED
  • This is only a good option if the applicant is not dependent on scholarship offers, as any financial aid is unlikely in the case of an ED offer
  • Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD

Early Action (EA), nonrestrictive:

  • Applicant may apply to an unlimited amount of universities and colleges that offer EA
  • Applicant receives an early admission decision, but does not have to respond to the admission offer until the spring
  • As applicant is not binded to this admissions decision, he or she may still apply to other universities through RD, and weigh all admissions offers together in the spring
  • Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD

Restrictive Early Action:

  • Applicant may not apply to any other university (neither EA nor ED)
  • Applicant receives an early admissions decision, but does not have to respond to the admission offer until the spring
  • Applicant is not binded to this admissions decision, so he or she may still apply to other universities through RD
  • Possible outcomes include: acceptance, rejection, or deferral to RD

How can you prepare?

Planning is the key to creating a strong early application. Early application deadlines are generally November 1. To meet this early deadline in the beginning of your final year of high school, applicants should:

  • Complete the necessary application components, including a finalized personal statement and any required supplemental essays, over the summer
  • Request letters of recommendation from your teachers and school counselor on the first day back to school
  • SAT/ACT and TOEFL/IELTS tests should be completed by October at the latest
  • Understand your profile! While admission rates are generally higher for early applications, you should still be a strong applicant. ED in particular is not a leap of faith, but a calculated strategy
  • Be prepared for all possible outcomes! Have your RD applications ready to submit by January 1 in case you are not accepted through early admission

Remember that while there are several benefits to applying early, it is not the right option for everyone. Always apply to a balanced variety of universities, regardless of the application deadline. Applying early is just one of many paths that can lead you to your dream school.

Nana Koranteng is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group. She is a former Fulbright Fellow and  graduate of Pomona College.





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