Over the past few years, all of us at Team Insight are noticing more and more families want to know if early admission option can increase their chance of acceptance. While early admissions may have a higher acceptance rate, it’s important to understand your options and weigh the restrictions before you send in your application!
Most of you probably know about early actions (EA) and early decisions (ED). If you are uncertain, you can learn more about them in our article “Early Decision vs. Early Action.” In addition to early decisions and early actions, we will also explain restrictive early actions (REA) and single-choice early actions (SCEA) and provide insights on Early Decision 2 (ED2).
Early Decision 1 (EDI or ED1)
If you look at any of the admissions statistics, you may be shocked at how high the acceptance rates are compared to regular decisions. Before you jump in and apply ED, note there is a catch. Early decision is binding. You can apply ED to only ONE college, and if you are accepted, you must withdraw all your applications to other universities. Essentially, when you apply ED to a school, you are signing a contract telling this school, “You’re my number one choice, and I will absolutely attend if I am accepted.”
Should you do that for your dream school? The answer is “it depends.” ED doesn’t mean less competitive; it may even be more competitive because it is a self-selecting process. Everyone who applies ED to UPenn is highly qualified, not to mention they are well-motivated to plan and start their application process early. If you are confident that you can finalize a high-quality college application by the typical November ED deadline, ED may be an option for you.
The other consideration is financial aid. Once again, when you apply early decision, you are signaling to the college that you will attend no matter what. This means colleges are less likely to offer you scholarships or financial aid. Therefore, if you are counting on financial help, then early decision may not be the right option.
Read more: Think it Through: Early Decision
Early Decision 2 (EDII or ED 2)
This is a relatively new admissions option, and not all colleges offer this. You follow the same rule as ED1. For many schools, ED2 deadline is slightly before or the same as regular decision. Why would you choose the ED2 option then? The main reason you’d apply ED2 is that you were deferred or rejected from your ED1 college.
Like ED1, your ED2 school is a college that you are excited to attend. Although early decision 2 admissions rate is not as high as early decision 1 acceptance rate, it can still provide you with a boost because of the binding policy.
A word of caution for ED2: some universities (for example, Santa Clara University) offer both early action and early decision 2. You cannot switch from early action to early decision 2. That’s why ED2 options need to be factored in early during the admissions process rather than treated like a backup option. If you are not sure which of your top-choice colleges offer ED2 or how to use it to your advantage, reach out to your Insight Counselor!
Have quesitons about applying early? Talk to one of our Counselors today!
Early Action (EA)
The deadlines for early action are typically November 1st or November 15th. For some schools and majors, you may need to submit your application as early as mid-October. When you apply EA, you can apply to as many schools as you want. A word of caution, some colleges offer EA programs, but the admissions process is closer to restricted early action, which we will get to in the next section.
What’s the benefit of submitting your applications early? In addition to getting a big to-do item checked off before your high school finals, you also hear about the admissions results earlier. You may find out in December or January whether you get to attend your top-choice school, and who wouldn’t like that as a Christmas present?
The other advantage is you have time on your side to strategize (or relax) since you won’t have to commit to a college until May 1st. This gives you time to apply to more schools, compare financial aid options, and visit more campuses. Since early action is non-binding, you can choose what you like the most.
Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action (REA or SCEA)
This is where things get a bit more complicated. Whether you see restrictive early action or single-choice early action, please note that REA and SCEA are interchangeable. Ultimately, it’s up to the admissions office’s restrictions, so always remember to read the college admissions website carefully. When in doubt, talk to your Insight Counselor!
There are two different types of restrictive early action, and we will explain both with examples. The first type of REA limits perspective students from applying ED to any universities, nor can they apply EA to any private colleges. The colleges that adopt this type of REA are Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, CalTech, and Yale (on Yale’s admissions site, this is known as the single-choice early action). This means if you are applying early to Princeton, you cannot apply EA to USC, but you can still apply EA to University of Michigan.
USC now words their early action deadline differently, so you may still be able to apply to restrictive early action to some of the examples listed above. Wonder how this might work? Schedule a personalized college admission strategy session with an Insight counselor today!
The second type of REA does not limit the type (private or public) of EA schools you can apply to. Georgetown is a good example. On the admissions page, Georgetown classifies its program as early action, but their description of their EA program outlines the restriction. If you apply early to Georgetown, you can still apply EA to both USC and UMich, but you cannot apply to any early decision programs.
While it may be confusing on what you can or cannot apply, the restrictions end at the early admissions round. Both REA and SCEA are non-binding. Thus, you can still apply to other schools during regular decision deadlines, and you can enroll in the college that you like the most.
While you may use early admissions to increase your chance in getting into your dream schools, it’s still important to have a strong college application that tells a powerful personal narrative. Ultimately, it’s up to you. How thoughtful you are in putting together your college list. Have you talked to your parents about financial aid? Did you send your application to your Insight Counselor for review yet? Are you following up with teachers who can be strong recommenders? Have you been working on your college essays? Are you scheduling time every week to focus on your application and essays? These are all actions you can take to ensure you have the best chance of maximizing your college admissions acceptance rate. If you need help or additional clarification, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let our team of experienced college admissions counselors help you!
This article was created from an interview with Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.
Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.