The Ivy Coach Daily

August 28, 2023

Schools with Early Action for 2023-2024 Admissions Cycle

MIT campus quad with students taking pictures
Some universities, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offer Non-Restrictive Early Action policies (photo credit: John Phelan).

Have you heard the term “Early Action” bandied about, and you’re not quite sure what it means? If so, you’ll learn precisely what Early Action means and how it applies to highly selective college admissions right here. You’ll learn the ins and outs of the policy as well as how various colleges offer different versions of Early Action. So here goes!

What Does Early Action Mean?

Many students and parents navigating the elite college admissions process often don’t know the difference between Early Action vs. Early Decision. The two terms are not synonymous. Instead, Early Decision is a policy under which a student applies to a college by making a binding commitment to attend if offered admission, whereas Early Action is non-binding. If a student earns admission under a college’s Early Action policy, the student is under no obligation to matriculate. Their choice is due on the National Candidates Reply Date of May 1st.

Early Action and Early Decision, however, do offer some similarities. At most colleges, the deadline to submit Early Action and Early Decision I applications is on or around November 1st, and students typically learn of their Early Decision or Early Action admissions decisions around mid-December — before they submit Regular Decision applications.

Some colleges offer Early Decision policies, some Early Action policies, and others both Early Decision and Early Action policies. So, often, college applicants don’t get to choose whether they wish to apply to a college through Early Action or Early Decision. Instead, they pick the college(s) they most want to attend — ideally based not just on their dreams but on their chances of earning admission — and then submit their applications under that school’s Early policy.

Types of Early Action

There are two broader categories of Early Action: Non-Restrictive Early Action and Restrictive Early Action. Within the category of Restrictive Early Action, a smaller group of schools are so restrictive that their policies are labeled Single Choice Early Action.

Non-Restrictive Early Action

Colleges with Non-Restrictive Early Action policies allow students to apply to another college under that school’s binding Early Decision policy. So even if a student earns admission to the college with a Non-Restrictive Early Action policy, if they also get into the school to which they applied Early Decision, the student is bound to attend the school to which they applied under a binding policy. Most colleges with Early Decision policies will allow applicants also to submit applications to Non-Restrictive Early Action colleges, like public universities and certain private schools with no restrictions, like the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or the California Institute of Technology

Restrictive Early Action

Unlike Non-Restrictive Early Action, colleges with Restrictive Early Action policies have stipulations that govern where students can apply in the Early round of admissions. For instance, no college with a Restrictive Early Action policy will allow its applicants to submit an Early Decision I application to another college. Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame are cases in point. A student can apply Restrictive Early Action to Georgetown and Notre Dame, but that same applicant cannot apply Early Decision to the University of Pennsylvania.

Single Choice Early Action

A select batch of elite colleges offers Restrictive Early Action policies with even more limiting ground rules. Students can apply to one school among this batch and any public university. For instance, a Yale University Early Action applicant cannot also apply to the University of Chicago through its Non-Restrictive Early Action policy since UChicago is a private institution. However, the student can apply Early Action to the University of Michigan since it’s a public institution.

A Complete List of Top Colleges that Offer Early Action

Non-Restrictive Early Action Top School List

Among the national universities ranked in the top 50 by US News & World Report in its 2023 college ranking, the following schools offer Non-Restrictive Early Action policies:

College / University2023 US News RankEarly Action Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#2Early Action
University of Chicago#6Early Action
California Institute of Technology#9Early Action
University of California, Berkeley#20Single 11/30 Deadline
University of California, Los Angeles#20Single 11/30 Deadline
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor#25Early Action
University of Southern California#25Early Action
University of Virginia#25Early Action
University of Florida#29Priority Applicant Round
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill#29Early Action
University of California, Santa Barbara#32Single 11/30 Deadline
University of California, Irvine#34Single 11/30 Deadline
University of California, San Diego#34Single 11/30 Deadline
University of California, Davis#38Single 11/30 Deadline
University of Texas at Austin#38Early Action (or Priority Deadline on ApplyTexas application)
University of Wisconsin – Madison#38Early Action
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign#41Early Action
Case Western Reserve University#44Early Action
Georgia Institute of Technology#44Early Action
Northeastern University#44Early Action
Tulane University#44Early Action
The Ohio State University#49Early Action
University of Georgia#49Early Action

Restrictive Early Action Top School List

Among the national universities ranked in the top 50 by US News & World Report in its 2023 college ranking, the following schools offer Restrictive Early Action policies:

College / University2023 US News RankEarly Action Policy
University of Notre Dame#18Restrictive Early Action
Georgetown University#22Restrictive Early Action

Single Choice Early Action Top School List

Among the national universities ranked in the top 50 by US News & World Report in its 2023 college ranking, the following schools offer a specific form of Non-Restrictive Early Action policies — Single Choice Early Action:

College / University2023 US News RankEarly Action Policy
Princeton University#1Single Choice Early Action
Harvard University#3Single Choice Early Action
Stanford University#3Single Choice Early Action
Yale University#3Single Choice Early Action

No liberal arts college ranked in the top 25 by US News & World Report in its 2023″Best Liberal Arts Colleges” ranking offers Early Action.

The Advantages of Applying Early Action

A student has much stronger odds of getting into a college through Early Action than through Regular Decision. Why’s that? Admitted Early Action applicants tend to matriculate at a higher rate than Regular Decision admits, supercharging a college’s yield. The yield is the percentage of admitted students who choose to attend. Also, admissions officers tend to be more insecure in the Early Action round because they don’t know if they’ll get a robust Regular Decision applicant pool (when less secure, they’re more lenient).

The admissions statistics substantiate this truth. For the Class of 2026, take a look at the Early Action admission rate as compared to the Regular Decision admission rate at the following schools, as examples:

College / University with Early Action2023 US News RankEarly Action Admission Rate (Class of 2026)Regular Decision Admission Rate (Class of 2026)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#24.7%3.36%
Harvard University#37.87%2.34%
Yale University#312.09%3.17%

Additionally, students who earn admission through Early Action typically find out their decisions in mid-December so they can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they’re at least off to a good start in the college admissions process.

When Are Early Action Application Deadlines?

Most colleges that offer Early Action tend to have application deadlines on or around November 1st. There are exceptions, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (October 15th), the Georgia Institute of Technology (October 17th – Georgia students only), and others.

When Do Early Action Decisions Come Out?

Most colleges that offer Early Action tend to notify applicants of their admissions decisions around mid-December. There are exceptions (e.g., the University of Virginia — late January). At this time, students are either accepted, deferred to the Regular Decision pool, or denied outright. Deferred students will learn their final decisions when the college releases Regular Decision notifications (it’s strongly encouraged that they submit a compelling Letter of Enthusiasm shortly after their deferral). Accepted students have until May 1st to let the college know if they’ll be matriculating.

The Myths Clouding Early Action

There are no disadvantages whatsoever in applying Early Action. That said, there are certain myths surrounding the policy. As an example, some believe that by applying Early Action, students will not be able to compare and contrast financial aid offers from various colleges. But that’s false. First, federally-mandated Net Price Calculators are available on every college’s admissions website. So students can calculate their anticipated award. But, also, Early Action isn’t binding, so it’s not like students can’t get into a college Early Action and then apply to other schools through Regular Decision in any case.

Early Action FAQs

Since my child is not ready to commit to a specific college, should they apply Early Action instead of Early Decision?

No, they should figure out which reasonable reach school they wish to attend. And they should apply Early to that school — irrespective of whether the school has an Early Action or Early Decision policy.

Are the benefits of applying Early Decision more substantial than Early Action?

Yes, when a student makes a binding commitment to attend a school — as they do by applying Early Decision — the school tends to show that love back to the student in spades by offering increased odds of admission. While students who apply to colleges with Early Action policies still have an advantage over Regular Decision applicants at that school, the benefit is less potent than at schools with Early Decision policies. 

What if my child breaches a college’s Restrictive Early Action policy by applying to another school through Early Decision?

If a student violated a school’s restrictions on its Early Action policy, that student could easily jeopardize their admission at every school to which they apply. If, for instance, a student applies Restrictive Early Action to Georgetown and also applies Early Decision to Duke University and manages to get into both, the student’s admission to both schools will likely be rescinded.

Is Early Action a round that favors privileged applicants?

Yes, the Early Action round attracts recruited athletes and legacies from high-income families. But for a student to not apply Early Action because they think the data is misleading, since it includes these candidates, defies logic. After all, by this logic, the Regular Decision round is filled with first-generation college students, low-income students, and underrepresented minorities, all groups that have increased odds of admission. So how is it easier for anyone to get in through Regular Decision? It’s not!

If my child is a procrastinator, should they skip the Early Action round and apply Regular Decision?

That’s ridiculous. Your child will have to commit to a single college in the end, so why shouldn’t they apply in the Early Action round when the odds are more in their favor? They’d otherwise miss a golden opportunity to increase their odds of admission.

Optimizing Your Child’s Case for Early Action Admission with Ivy Coach

If you’re interested in optimizing your child’s case for admission to their Early Action college(s) or Early Decision college, reach out to Ivy Coach to schedule a free admissions consultation to learn about our college counseling services. During this call, you will have the opportunity to learn about Ivy Coach’s services and how we can help position your child’s candidacy to give them the best possible shot at admission to their dream school(s).

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