The college admissions process is anything but linear. There are many different application options and processes depending on where you decide to apply. Some are binding and others are non-binding. So, is applying via Early Action binding?
Early Action is the name of one of many college application options. If you are considering this option and want clarification on the process and whether or not Early Action is binding, then read on to learn more as we go over the Early Action college application process.
What Is Early Action?
Early Action is a college application option for students applying to a college earlier than the regular admission deadline. That said, it has several prominent features. The Early Action (EA) option requires students to apply early and guarantees that they will get a response early, usually by January or February.
Importantly, Early Action is not binding. This means that if you are granted early admission to a college to which you applied using Early Action, you do not have to accept that offer of admission. Because it is a non-binding option, you can typically apply Early Action to more than one school (read on for some scenarios in which you can only apply to one school using EA).
Remember, Early Action does not restrict students from applying to as many schools as they want via Regular Decision. Because it isn’t binding and because students often get their Early Action results after Regular Decision deadlines, there is no negative relationship between applying somewhere using Early Action and applying to several other schools via Regular Decision.
The Early Action Application Process
Before explaining some common misconceptions and confusion around Early Action, let’s breakdown the actual process. This is the timeline and order of operations for a typical Early Action application process:
- Junior year and fall of senior year: Do your college research and decide if there is anywhere that you would like to apply via EA
- Submit EA application(s) by mid-December, though the deadline varies by college
- Get your admission decision by January or February
- If admitted, decide if you want to attend your EA school. Enroll by May 1
What’s the Difference Between Early Action and Early Decision?
No matter how many times your high school counselor has explained the difference between Early Action and Early Decision during your senior year, it’s okay if you’re still feeling unsure.
Again, Early Action is a non-binding early application option. Early Decision applications are often considered a bigger commitment since they represent a binding contract to only one institution. This means that if you apply to a college via Early Decision, you are committing to attend if you are offered admission. Only apply using ED if you are completely sure about your willingness and ability to attend that school.
Meanwhile, with Early Action, you are only demonstrating your interest in a school by applying via EA. You are not committing fully to that school and you can still decide against enrollment if you are admitted.
What Are the Benefits of Applying Early Action?
Early Action is your opportunity to apply to a good school early so that you can get your admission results back early. Students typically apply to their first-choice school using Early Action. This is a great option because it allows you to show demonstrated interest in the school.
Applying via Early Action can be beneficial because it means that your application will be considered within a pool of fewer applications. After all, a much smaller percentage of all applicants apply using Early Action over Regular Decision.
Early Action is also a way to demonstrate your interest in a specific school, which gives you some points. This means that overall, acceptance rates during Early Action tend to be slightly higher than acceptance rates during regular decisions.
That said, remember that these statistics always vary and that the admission process will depend on your application, the college’s admission office and their processes, and the quality of the overall pool of applicants.
Some students don’t apply to their top-choice school using Early Action if the school doesn’t offer the option. Other students may choose not to apply to their first-choice school using Early Action because they are trying to be strategic. Be careful with this. Though it may seem to make sense to be strategic, you should always make choices that are in line with what you want. Don’t try to outsmart the system. Instead, do your research and make decisions that align with your goals.
Single Choice Early Action and Restricted Early Action
To throw another wrench in the process, universities have broken down the Early Action system even further. You may have heard terms like Single Choice Early Action and Restricted Early Action. We’re here to break down these terms and make sure there is no confusion.
One main reason these terms are confusing is that they actually mean the same thing. There is actually no difference between Single Choice Early Action and Restricted Early Action, and when you think about it, it makes sense because both terms essentially mean the same thing.
With both options, you apply to only one college or university early. This means that if you’re thinking of applying to one school using Early Decision and another via Early Action, you should make sure that your Early Action choice is not single choice or restricted. It must be unrestricted. This also means that you can’t apply to multiple schools using Early Action.
Restrictive EA application options are typical of highly competitive universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Schools put this restriction on the EA process because of the added weight that it puts on a student’s application. If a student can only apply to one school via EA, the weight of their demonstrated interest in that school is much greater.
Which Early Application Should You Submit?
Deciding which college applications you want to submit is tough. It is a very personal decision that depends on many different factors.
One of the best things you can do is more research to make sure you understand all of your options. Use this guide to Early Action, and the knowledge that Early Action is non-binding, to get started.