The Ivy Coach Daily

May 29, 2024

Do Ivy League Schools Prefer Early Admission Applicants?

Students walk under a yellow tree outside Robinson Hall at Dartmouth College.

Each year, tens of thousands of students across the world try their luck at being admitted to an Ivy League school. A small but mighty proportion of these students do so ahead of schedule, submitting applications for consideration in Early admission rounds held by each school. Across the Ivy League, Early applicants stand a better chance of being admitted. 

At five of the schools in the Ivy League — Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania — this Early round is termed “Early Decision,” which means the decision to admit an applicant is binding. Students must matriculate if admitted. The remaining three schools — Harvard University, Princeton University, and Yale University — use a “Restrictive Early Action” policy which requires Early applicants to exclusively apply to one of these schools amongst private institutions. In other words, an applicant applying early to Yale is free to submit Early applications to public universities, but can not also apply early to Princeton. The decision rendered under Restrictive Early Action is non-binding.

Early vs. Regular Ivy League Acceptance Rates: A Comprehensive Breakdown

As the data below indicates, the Early round acceptance rate across the Ivy League is considerably higher than the Regular round acceptance rate, a trend that has only become more pronounced as the years progress. What’s more, the Ivy League has consistently filled around half of incoming classes with early admits. Does this mean that Ivy Leagues prefer Early applicants? Yes indeed!

However, there is a misconception about why early applicants fare better, a myth that we at Ivy Coach would like to dispel. Early applicant pools are not more competitive because they are filled with recruited athleteslegacies, and development cases. While these groups are more likely to apply Early, and stand a better chance of being admitted than the average applicant, the Regular Decision pools at the Ivy League schools are just as competitive, as they are filled with underrepresented minority students, first-generation college students, and low-income students.

Both pools contain highly coveted groups that increase admission competitiveness for the average applicant, but this effect is magnified in the Regular Decision pool. That’s why it’s easier to get in Early, even when an applicant is up against more privileged counterparts.

Early vs. Regular Ivy League Admission Statistics for the Class of 2027

Ivy League SchoolOverall Acceptance RateRegular Decision Acceptance RateRegular Decision Applications AcceptedRegular Decision Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/ Action Acceptance Rate% of Class Filled by Early ApplicationsEarly Decision/Action Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/Action Applications AcceptedExpected Number of Students to EnrollTotal Applications ReceivedTotal Applications Accepted
Brown University5.08%3.88%1,73044,53212.98%51.70%6,7708791,70051,3022,609
Columbia University3.93%NYPNYP51,391NYPNYP5,738NYPNYP57,1292,246
Cornell UniversityNYPNYP3,324NYPNYPNYPNYP1,670NYPNYP4,994
Dartmouth College6.07%4.54%1,17325,83219.21%50.26%3,0095781,15028,8411,751
Harvard University3.41%2.34%1,22047,3847.56%n/a*9,5537221,66556,9371,942
University of PennsylvaniaNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYP2,40059,463NYP
Princeton University4.50%NYPNYPNYPNYPn/a*NYPNYP1,55839,6441,782
Yale University4.35%3.22%1,43344,50610.89%n/a*7,7448421,55452,2502,275
n/a* = not applicable since an EA policy was in place
NYP = not yet published

Early vs. Regular Ivy League Admission Statistics for the Class of 2026

Ivy League SchoolOverall Acceptance RateRegular Decision Acceptance RateRegular Decision Applications AcceptedRegular Decision Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/Action Acceptance Rate% of Class Filled by Early ApplicationsEarly Decision/Action Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/Action Applications AcceptedExpected Number of Students to EnrollTotal Applications ReceivedTotal Applications Accepted
Brown University5.00%3.60%1,65144,50314.60%52.70%6,1468961,70050,6492,547
Columbia University3.73%2.96%1,60354,07210.31%43.60%6,3056501,49260,3772,253
Cornell University6.91%4.99%3,07761,60919.18%51.82%9,5551,8313,53371,0644,908
Dartmouth College6.24%4.70%1,20725,70321.27%48.70%2,6335601,15028,3361,767
Harvard University3.19%2.34%1,21451,8147.87%n/a*9,4067401,66561,2201,954
University of Pennsylvania6.50%4.99%2,33946,79415.52%50.42%7,7941,2102,40054,5883,549
Princeton University5.69%5.69%2,16938,019NYPn/a*NYPNYP1,43338,0192,167
Yale University4.47%3.17%1,35342,72712.09%n/a*7,2888811,55450,0152,234
n/a* = not applicable since an EA policy was in place
NYP = not yet published

Early vs. Regular Ivy League Admission Statistics for the Class of 2025

Ivy League SchoolOverall Acceptance RateRegular Decision Acceptance RateRegular Decision Applications AcceptedRegular Decision Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/Action Acceptance Rate% of Class Filled by Early ApplicationsEarly Decision/Action Applications ReceivedEarly Decision/Action Applications AcceptedExpected Number of Students to EnrollTotal Applications ReceivedTotal Applications Accepted
Brown University5.40%3.50%1,65241,02815.90%52.10%5,5408851,70046,5682,537
Columbia University3.70%2.90%1,56854,11610.10%43.50%6,4356501,49260,5512,218
Cornell UniversityNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYPNYP3,296NYP5,836
Dartmouth College6.20%4.50%1,15825,69321.20%51.40%2,6645911,15028,3571,749
Harvard University3.40%2.60%1,22347,3497.40%n/a*10,0867471,66557,4351,970
University of Pennsylvania5.70%4.20%2,00848,37114.90%49.80%7,9621,1942,40056,3333,202
Princeton University4.00%4.00%1,49837,601n/a*n/a*n/a*n/a*1,30837,6011,498
Yale University4.60%3.40%1,33238,99610.50%n/a*7,9398371,55446,9352,169
n/a* = not applicable since an EA policy was in place
NYP = not yet published

The Real Reason Why Early Applicants Fare Better

The Ivy League values early applicants because these students have essentially told their respective schools: “I am willing to forego admission anywhere else because I love your school that much!” Admissions committees would rather fill their classes with students who are excited and enthusiastic about joining their communities than with students who are vying for entry into many different schools. Early admitted students will arrive on campus starry-eyed and energized, whereas Regular admits might not have that same fervor, or so the admissions committee logic goes.

When it comes to the privileged composition of the Early applicant pool, it’s something of a chicken and egg question. Most Ivy Leagues claim that the Early pool is simply more competitive than the Regular pool. While this may very well be true, it is worth asking: do legacies and private-schoolers come into their senior years with a greater understanding of their chosen colleges, and commit sooner by weighing this information? This could also be possible. Or, are there a greater number of teachers, parents, and mentors in their lives who encourage Early applications because it’s more to their advantage, and a greater number of resources in place to allow them to start their applications as soon as possible? This could also be the case.

Interpretations aside, Early rounds are the best time to apply to highly selective universities. At Ivy Coachall of our students apply Early (except those who first come to us in mid-December of their senior years after they don’t get in) because we understand that, regardless of the reasoning, the same application is more competitive during an Early round than a Regular round. In fact, Ivy Coach’s crystal ball tells us that, as the years progress, a higher and higher percentage of Ivy League student bodies will be culled from Early applicant pools, and the gap between early and regular acceptance rates will only continue to grow!

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