What Is Early Action?

Learn the Benefits of Applying to College with Early Action

Admissions Office at Harvard University
Admissions Office at Harvard University. Glen Cooper / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Early action, like early decision, is an accelerated college application process in which students typically must complete their applications in November. In most cases, students will then receive a decision from the college before the new year.

Reasons to Love Early Action

  • Early Action is non-binding. You are not obligated to attend.
  • You have until the regular decision day to make a college decision.
  • You'll get your admissions decision early, usually in December.
  • Applying EA will often improve your chances of being admitted.

Defining Features of Early Action in College Admissions

In general, early action is a much more attractive option than early decision. Some reasons to consider early action include:

  • At many colleges, the acceptance rates are higher for early action than for regular admission.
  • Students who are not accepted early are still considered for admission with the regular admission pool.
  • Early action is not binding—students are free to apply to other colleges.
  • Students can apply early to other colleges.
  • Although students receive early notification of an acceptance, they do not need to make a decision until the usual May 1 deadline. This allows time to compare financial aid offers.
  • If accepted early at a college, the spring of a student's senior year will be far less stressful.
  • Even if accepted early, a student can choose to go to a different college with no penalty.

Clearly, early action has more benefits for the student than for the college. So not surprisingly, many more colleges offer early decision than early action.

Single-Choice Early Action

A few colleges offer a special type of early action called single-choice early action. Single choice has the benefits outlined above except that students are not allowed to apply to other colleges early. You are not bound in any way through single-choice early action. The college, however, has the benefit that their early applicants have expressed a clear preference for their school. This makes it easier for the college to predict its application yield.

Restrictive Early Action

Some colleges and universities (University of Notre Dame and Stanford University, for example) have an early admissions plan that falls somewhere between regular early action and single-choice early action. With restrictive early action, students can apply to other early action schools, but they cannot apply to a school with a binding early decision program.

Benefits of Early Action

  • If you are admitted, you can be done with your college search by December. For regular admission, your uncertainty can drag on until late March or April.
  • At most colleges, a higher percentage of applicants are admitted from the early action pool than the regular admission pool. The difference isn't always as great as it might be with a binding policy like early decision, but early action still helps you demonstrate interest, a factor that can make a difference in admission decisions.
  • You have nothing to lose—early action isn't binding, so you aren't committed to attend a college if admitted.

Drawbacks of Early Action

Unlike early decision, early action has few drawbacks since it is a non-binding admissions policy that generally helps your chances of being admitted. That said, there can be a couple of minor drawbacks:

  • You'll need to have your application ready early, often by November 1st. This can sometimes lead to rushed applications.
  • A rejection letter in December can be demoralizing as you work on regular admission applications.

When Are Early Action Applications Due?

The table below presents the deadlines for a small sampling of colleges that offer early action.

Sample Early Action Dates
College Application Deadline Receive a Decision by...
Case Western Reserve November 1 December 19
Elon University November 1 December 20
Notre Dame Novemer 1 Before Christmas
Stanford University November 1 December 6
University of Georgia October 15 mid-November

A Final Word

The only reason to not apply early action is because your application simply isn't ready by the early deadline. The benefits are many, and the downsides are few. While early decision sends a stronger message to a college about your true interest, early action is still likely to improve your chances of getting in at least a little.

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "What Is Early Action?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-early-action-786928. Grove, Allen. (2020, August 25). What Is Early Action? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-early-action-786928 Grove, Allen. "What Is Early Action?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-early-action-786928 (accessed April 1, 2023).

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