Applying Early

Inside the Admissions Office

Applying Early

Let’s get this out of the way up front: applying early provides a distinct advantage to students applying to college. Many early admissions programs have ac-ceptance rates that are roughly double or triple that of regular admissions deadlines. Therefore, if you are serious about attending an American university, you should be applying somewhere early.


The three types of “early” admissions plans require you to apply in October or November and often provide a distinct advantage that you will find out your deci-sion earlier (usually in December), therefore leaving you more options and less stress.


Early Action Plans:

  • You can apply to multiple early action colleges.
  • You have until May 1 to decide where you want to attend.
  • You can apply to other colleges during the Regular Decision deadlines.
  • You can decline the offer anytime before May 1.

Single Choice Early Action

  • The same as Early Action above, but you can only apply to one Single Choice school.

Early Decision (ED) plans:

  • You can only apply to one ED college
  • If accepted, you must go to that college. You sign a contract that binds you this agreement.
  • Sometimes there are two early deadlines, called ED I and ED II.
  • You can still apply to other Early Action colleges, but if you are accepted to your Early Decision school you must withdraw your other applications.


Why do colleges ask students to apply early? There are many reasons, but here are a few:

Convenience. Some selective colleges are processing 20,000 - 30,000 applica-tions a year. By getting students to apply earlier, the office has more time to sort and read this influx of materials.

Competence. When students apply early, it gives a clear signal to a college that the student is organized and has the strong work ethic and planning skills to complete tasks in a timely manner.

Confidence. Here’s a not-so-secret part of admissions: colleges want to show-case their desirability. So the higher number of students they admit who end up matriculating is known as the “yield rate,” and universities spend lots of time and money trying to improve their yield. And students who apply early attend that col-lege at a much higher rate. For example, a college with an Early Decision program knows that every student they admit will attend, which makes for less guesswork when they are trying to build a balanced class later in the year. For students admitted to Early Action programs, many are so excited and relieved to finally be accepted to college that they don’t bother applying to any other schools.


So when you are looking at building your college list, you’ll want to strategize on what is the right program for you. Schools like Yale and Stanford are “Single Choice Early Action,” which means you can ONLY apply to one of these schools early, thus diminishing your chances at the variety of other excellent schools with less restrictive admissions policies.