For many college-hopefuls, the worst part about applying for college isn’t writing application essays or figuring out which schools to apply to — it’s the waiting. After visiting countless college campuses, applying for college scholarships, and just getting HYPED for uni life in general, you now have to wait until the spring of your senior year to find out your fate.
Unless…you submit a college application early…
Turns out, many colleges and universities offer early decision (ED) and early action (EA) admissions that allow students to apply to college early. You probably know all about ED, the strongest “card to play” in the college admissions game. But have you heard about early action?
What Is Early Action for College?
In a regular admissions cycle, college applications are typically due sometime in January and February, with a response expected in March or April. But if you’re applying early action, it simply means that you’re applying for college and receiving a decision well in advance of the school’s regular response time.
EA can come in two different forms: standard early action and restrictive early action (also known as single-choice early action). Both forms are non-binding, which means that you are not obligated to attend the school if you get accepted.
However, with restrictive early action (REA), you usually can’t apply REA to other private institutions. Many private institutions such as Yale allow you to apply to a public institution’s early admissions program, so long as the agreement isn’t binding.
The bottom line: If you choose to apply early action, be sure to check the school’s website to read the program’s rules.
Advantages of Applying Early Action
So, why would someone bother to apply EA? Here are a few reasons why submitting an early application could be a smart move:
- Indicates Demonstrated Interest – Demonstrated interest is one of the things that some (but not all) college admissions officers look for in student applicants. By applying EA (or even better, REA), you can indicate a high interest in attending the school, which may potentially boost your chances of admission.
Related: What Do Colleges Look for?
- Helps Reduce Stress/Anxiety – Not knowing where you stand with your dream school can be super stressful. Another thing that can raise your anxiety levels: watching all of your friends who applied EA get accepted to their dream schools while your fate is just one big question mark. Honestly, you may want to consider applying EA just so you can chill the eff out.
- Allows You to Weigh Financial Aid Packages – For students who require financial aid, applying EA or REA is much less risky. That’s because when you apply early decision, you’re basically stuck with whatever financial aid package they give you — even if another college offers you something better. When you apply EA or REA, you’re free to compare financial aid packages, which is a big deal if you’re depending on financial aid to pay for college.
- Frees Up More of Your Time – Another lowkey advantage to submitting your college application early is that it frees up your senior year. We mean, this is the last time you’ll be taking classes from your favorite teachers and hanging out with your high school friends. Go ahead: Knock out that application and then live yo’ best life.
Who Should Apply Early Action?
Now, you may be wondering: Why wouldn’t someone apply early action? EA is non-binding, so there’s nothing to lose, right?
Well, not necessarily. It’s important to point out that EA admission cycles don’t take your senior year grades into consideration. This may not be a big deal for students who already meet their dream school’s college GPA requirements, but if your GPA isn’t high, you may be better off applying regular decision.
Applying early action could also be a bad move if you’re rushing through your application to meet the deadline (which is most commonly in early November). If you’re not ready to submit your application, you’re probably better off applying regular decision.
In general, you should consider applying early action if:
- You have a dream school, but still want to weigh all of your options carefully.
- You already meet GPA requirements.
- You’ve done your financial aid homework.
- You’re actually ready to apply.
Getting a Response After Applying Early Action
When you finally get a response (usually in December or January), be prepared for one of three answers: acceptance, rejection, or deferment to the regular admissions cycle. Try to remember that being deferred is not a rejection. It means your application was strong enough that college admissions officers didn’t want to let you go just yet.
All in all, there are few downsides to applying early action for college. Still, you might want to talk to your school counselor before you submit your application early. It never hurts to get a second opinion from someone who knows your situation!
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