The Ivy Coach Daily

June 26, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Applying Early Action

The University of Pennsylvania's quad is featured with orange trees on an autumn day.
Most Ivy League schools, like the University of Pennsylvania, have Early Decision rather than Early Action policies (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Do you need clarification on what an Early Action policy means? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Early Action can be slightly confusing since not all colleges have the same Early Action policies. After all, some schools have Non-Restrictive Early Action policies, and others Restrictive Early Action policies. Within the group of schools with Restrictive Early Action policies, some even have such restricted policies that they’re known as Single Choice Early Action schools.

What Is Early Action?

Early Action is a non-binding college admissions policy under which students apply, typically by November 1st of their senior year of high school, and learn of their admissions decision around mid-December in most cases. Students are not required to attend the college if offered admission.

When Do Students Apply Early Action?

To apply Early Action, students typically must submit their applications by November 1st of their senior year of high school. However, there are exceptions. For instance, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has an Early Action deadline of October 15th, while the Georgia Institute of Technology has a deadline of October 16th for its applicants from the state of Georgia. That said, most highly selective universities have Early Action deadlines on November 1st.

Is Early Action Binding?

Unlike Early Decision policies, Early Action policies are non-binding, meaning that, if admitted, a student is not required to enroll. In fact, students usually learn of their decisions from their Early Action school(s) by mid-December (although there are exceptions like the University of Virginia, which notifies Early Action applicants by February 15th). Still, accepted students are not required to decide which school to attend until National College Decision Day or May 1st.

What Are the Possible Outcomes for Early Action?

Students who apply Early Action are either accepted, deferred, or denied. If a student is accepted, they have until May 1st to let that school know if they intend to enroll. If a student is deferred, their final admissions decision will be rendered during the Regular Decision admissions cycle — typically in mid to late-March. If a student is denied, that student will no longer be considered for admission that admissions cycle and would need to reapply in a future year if they still hoped to earn entry.

What Are the Benefits of Applying Early Action?

There are two critical benefits to applying Early Action:

(1) Students have increased odds of admission. As you’ll note, students are accepted at highly selective universities at a much higher rate in the Early Action round than in the Regular Decision round. Think of it this way: Elite colleges are more lenient when insecure. When students apply Early Action, elite colleges don’t yet know if they’ll get a lot of applicants in the Regular Decision round and/or if they’ll get a strong applicant pool. 

(2) Students learn of their admissions decisions earlier during senior year, alleviating stress and potentially even ending the college admissions process when other students are just beginning to apply.

What Are the Different Forms of Early Action?

Non-Restrictive Early Action

There are some schools, like the University of Chicago, with Non-Restrictive Early Action policies among the highly selective universities. Students who apply Early Action to UChicago can also apply to a school under a binding Early Decision policy, like the University of Pennsylvania. That student can also apply to any public university, like the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, the University of California schools, etc. That said, if the student earns Early Decision admission to UPenn and Early Action admission to UChicago and a top public school, that student is bound to attend UPenn.

Restrictive Early Action

Other schools, like the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University, offer Restrictive Early Action policies among the highly selective universities. Georgetown applicants, for instance, can apply to any university through an Early Action policy, but they are forbidden from applying to a school through Early Decision. For example, a Georgetown Early Action applicant cannot also apply Early Decision to Brown University.

Single Choice Early Action

Among the highly selective universities with Restrictive Early Action policies, there’s a select batch that has such restrictive policies that they’re known as Single Choice Early Action schools. Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, and Stanford University all boast Single Choice Early Action policies. A Yale applicant cannot apply to any other private university — regardless of whether they offer Early Action or Early Decision policies. The only schools a student who applies to an SCEA school can apply to are public universities like Michigan, UVA, and the UC schools.

Colleges with Non-Restrictive Early Action Policies

Among the national universities ranked among the top 50 by US News & World Report in its 2023 college ranking, the below 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
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

Colleges with Restrictive Early Action Policies

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

College / University2023 US News RankEarly Action Policy
California Institute of Technology#9Restrictive Early Action
University of Notre Dame#18Restrictive Early Action
Georgetown University#22Restrictive Early Action

Colleges with Single Choice Early Action Policies

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

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

Ivy Coach’s Assistance Optimizing Your Case for Early Action Admission

If you’re interested in giving yourself the best shot at admission in the Early Action round, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our services. We look forward to hearing from you.

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