What is Early Action? A Guide for College Applicants

If you are a high school senior who is planning to apply to college, you may have heard of the term early action. But what does it mean, and how does it affect your chances of getting into your dream school?

In this article, we will explain what early action is, how it differs from other types of college applications, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of applying early.

What is Early Action?

Early action is a type of college application process that allows you to submit your application earlier than the regular deadline, usually in November. By applying early, you can receive an admission decision from the college sooner, typically by December or January.

Early action is not binding, which means that you are not obligated to attend the college if you are accepted. You can still apply to other colleges, compare financial aid offers, and make your final decision by the regular May 1 deadline.

How is Early Action Different from Early Decision?

Early action is often confused with another type of college application process called early decision. However, there are some important differences between the two:

  • Early decision is binding, which means that you must attend the college if you are accepted. You can only apply to one college early decision, and you must withdraw your applications from other colleges if you are admitted.
  • Early decision has a higher acceptance rate than early action, but it also has a higher yield rate, which means that more admitted students enroll. This makes early decision more competitive and selective than early action.
  • Early decision does not allow you to compare financial aid offers from different colleges, which may put you at a disadvantage if you need financial assistance.

What are the Benefits of Applying Early Action?

Applying early action can have several advantages for college applicants, such as:

Higher acceptance rates

Many colleges have higher acceptance rates for early action than for regular admission, which means that you have a better chance of getting in. This is especially true for selective colleges that receive a large number of applications.

More options

Unlike early decision, early action does not limit your choices. You can still apply to other colleges, either early or regular, and you can choose the best fit for you based on academic, social, and financial factors.

Early notification

By applying early action, you can find out if you are accepted, rejected, or deferred to the regular admission pool by December or January. This can give you more time to plan your next steps, such as applying to other colleges, preparing for interviews, or requesting additional materials.

Less stress

If you are accepted early action, you can relax and enjoy the rest of your senior year without worrying about college applications. You can also focus on your academics, extracurriculars, and other interests, knowing that you have secured a spot at a college.

What are the Drawbacks of Applying Early Action?

Applying early action can also have some disadvantages for college applicants, such as:

Earlier deadlines

Applying early action means that you have to complete your application earlier than the regular deadline, usually by November 1 or 15. This can be challenging if you need more time to improve your test scores, write your essays, or gather your recommendations.

Lower chances of merit aid

Some colleges may offer less merit-based financial aid to early action applicants than to regular admission applicants, since they assume that early applicants are more interested and likely to enroll. This can affect your affordability and value of attending a college.

What is Single-Choice Early Action?

Some colleges, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, offer a special type of early action called single-choice early action or restrictive early action. This option has the same benefits and drawbacks as regular early action, except that you are not allowed to apply to any other private colleges early. You can still apply to public colleges, international colleges, or colleges with rolling admission early, as long as they are not binding.

Single-choice early action is designed to give students more flexibility and freedom than early decision, while also allowing colleges to attract students who are genuinely interested and committed to their school. However, this option also requires more research and planning from students, since they have to choose one college as their top choice and apply early.

Is Early Action Right for You?

Early action can be a great option for students who are confident about their college choices, prepared to submit their applications early, and eager to receive an admission decision sooner. However, early action is not for everyone, and it may not be the best fit for students who need more time, flexibility, or financial aid.

Before you decide to apply early action, you should consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a clear first choice college, or a list of colleges that you are equally interested in?
  • Do you have a strong academic record and test scores that reflect your abilities and potential?
  • Do you have a compelling and authentic personal statement and supplemental essays that showcase your personality and fit for the college?
  • Do you have supportive and reliable letters of recommendation that highlight your achievements and character?
  • Do you have a realistic and balanced college list that includes reach, target, and safety schools?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of your financial situation and the cost of attendance for each college?
  • Do you have a backup plan in case you are rejected or deferred from your early action college?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, then early action may be a good option for you. However, if you answered no or maybe to some of these questions, then you may want to reconsider applying early action, or consult with your college counselor, parents, or teachers for guidance.


Early action is a type of college application process that allows you to apply and receive a decision earlier than the regular deadline. Early action is not binding, which means that you can still apply to other colleges and make your final decision by May 1.

Some colleges offer a special type of early action called single-choice early action, which restricts you from applying to other private colleges early. Early action is not for everyone, and you should carefully weigh the pros and cons before applying.

Share the knowledge