Early Action (EA) Explained

18/12/202311 minute read
Early Action (EA) Explained

When you're getting ready to apply to college, strategic planning and timely decision-making are crucial. As students decide where and when to apply, many students opt to apply Early Action (EA). Instead of waiting for the regular application deadlines, Early Action allows students to submit their applications early, thus receiving a faster response about whether or not they've been accepted.

In this blog, we'll explore all of the details surrounding Early Action – what it means when applying to college, its pros and cons, how to decide if it's the right choice for you, important dates to note, and how EA influences your chances of admission.

What is Early Action?

Early Action is an admissions strategy that allows students to apply to colleges and universities earlier than the regular admission deadline.

Unlike Early Decision (ED), Early Action is non-binding, meaning that if admitted, the student is not obligated to attend the institution. It offers a middle ground between the regular decision process and the more restrictive Early Decision plans.

Pros and Cons of Early Action

Like any strategic decision, Early Action comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help you make a strategic choice that aligns with your goals.


  1. Early Notification: One of the primary benefits of Early Action is that you receive admission decisions sooner than regular decision applicants. This can alleviate stress and allow you to plan accordingly.
  2. Flexibility: Since Early Action is non-binding, you have the flexibility to compare offers and make a final decision closer to the regular decision deadline.
  3. Demonstrated Interest: Applying early can demonstrate your genuine interest in the institution, potentially giving your application a slight boost.
  4. Increased Acceptance Rates: Some colleges have higher acceptance rates for Early Action applicants compared to regular decision applicants, making it a favorable option for those aiming to improve their chances of admission.

What Is Early Action?


  1. Limited Information: Applying early means you might not have your senior year grades and standardized test scores (if applicable) at the time of application. This could impact the overall strength of your application.
  2. Rushed Decision: Early Action deadlines often fall in the first semester of your senior year, which can be a time of increased academic pressure. Rushing your application may result in a less polished submission.
  3. Limited Options: If you are accepted under Early Action, you might feel compelled to commit to that institution, potentially limiting your ability to explore other offers.
  4. Competitive Pool: Early Action pools can be highly competitive, as many high-achieving students apply early to their dream schools. This could make it more challenging to stand out.

Deciding Whether to Apply Early Action

The decision to apply Early Action should take several factors into account. Below is a list of things to consider when deciding whether or not to apply Early Action.

  1. Academic Preparedness: Assess whether you have the necessary grades, test scores, and extracurricular achievements to present a strong application early in your senior year.
  2. College List: Consider whether your top-choice colleges offer Early Action. Research each institution's policies and weigh the benefits of applying early to those that align with your preferences.
  3. Application Readiness: Evaluate the readiness of your application materials, including essays, recommendation letters, and any additional requirements. Make sure you can submit a compelling and well-prepared application.
  4. Future Test Dates: If you plan to take standardized tests again, check the testing schedule to ensure you have ample time to retake exams and receive scores before the Early Action deadline.
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How to Apply Early Action

If you decide to pursue Early Action, follow these steps to ensure a smooth application process:

  1. Research College Policies: Understand the specific Early Action policies of each college on your list. Some institutions offer Single Choice Early Action (SCEA), which restricts applicants from applying early to other private institutions.
  2. Check Deadlines: Mark the Early Action application deadlines on your calendar. These typically fall in November, but specific dates vary by college.
  3. Prepare Application Materials: Gather all necessary documents, including transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Ensure they reflect your strengths and achievements.
  4. Submit the Application: Utilize the college's online application portal to submit your materials. Double-check that all components are included before hitting the submit button.
  5. Follow Up: After submission, monitor your application status regularly. Address any additional requests for information promptly.

Important Dates to Note

To ensure a successful Early Action application, be aware of these key dates:

  1. Application Deadlines: Early Action deadlines are typically sometime in mid-November. Check each college's website for precise dates.
  2. Test Dates: If you plan to submit standardized test scores, be aware of the last acceptable test dates before the Early Action deadline.
  3. Notification Dates: Colleges usually notify Early Action applicants of their admission decisions by mid-December. Some may release decisions earlier or later, so check the specific policies of each institution.
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Types of Early Action

Many colleges and universities offer Early Action as part of their admission policies, although some institutions opt not to offer any type of Early Action. It is crucial that you thoroughly research the specific policies of each institution that you are applying to.

There are two main types of Early Action: Non-Restrictive Early Action and Restrictive Early Action (REA).

  • Non-Restrictive: Applicants may apply EA to as many schools as they would like
  • Restrictive: Applicants may only apply to one school REA or ED

Some prestigious schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale offer a unique policy called Single Choice Early Action (SCEA).

SCEA is non-binding and allows students to apply to only one SCEA school, and does not allow students to apply elsewhere in ED or EA (except to international or public state universities).

Top Schools' Early Action Policies
SchoolEarly Action Policy
PrincetonSingle Choice Early Action
MITNon-Restrictive Early Action
HarvardSingle Choice Early Action
StanfordRestrictive Early Action
YaleSingle Choice Early Action
CaltechNon-Restrictive Early Action
UChicagoNon-Restrictive Early Action
UC BerkeleyNon-Restrictive Early Action
UCLANon-Restrictive Early Action
Notre DameRestrictive Early Action
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Non-Restrictive Early Action
Georgetown University Restrictive Early Action
UNC-Chapel HillNon-Restrictive Early Action

Impact on Admission Chances

Applying Early Action can influence your chances of admission in several ways:

  1. Increased Acceptance Rates: Some colleges have higher acceptance rates for Early Action applicants compared to regular decision applicants. This can be an advantage for students who are confident in their qualifications.
  2. Demonstrated Interest: By applying early, you demonstrate a strong interest in the institution. This can positively impact the admission committee's perception of your commitment to their school.
  3. First Look Advantage: Early Action applicants are often among the first to be reviewed by admissions committees. This can work in your favor if you present a compelling application that stands out.


When applying to colleges, you'll likely come across Early Action as a deadline option for submitting your applications. Applying Early Action is non-binding, granting you the freedom to explore other schools even after acceptance.

Opting for EA gives you the advantage of a more extended timeline to decide. By choosing Early Action, you can take the time to carefully consider your options and select the best path for your academic journey.

For assistance in your college admissions journey, schedule a free consultation with one of our experts.

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