Early Action and Early Decision Application Deadlines for US Colleges

In this article, I would like to focus on two topics that students who want to continue their college education in the United States should know about.

I would like to focus on the earliest deadlines for undergraduate study applications. As I mentioned in a previous article, the sooner you start your applications, the more successful you will be in your college application preparation process. Early preparation and applications will yield acceptance from better schools with better financial conditions. Your chances of getting more scholarships increase. Your time to decide also increases, since you will have more time to think about which college you will go to. In this regard, I thought it would be useful for you to focus on early decision and early action deadlines.

First of all, be sure to keep the date of November 1st in the back of your mind. This is the earliest application deadline used by most colleges in the United States. In other words, it is possible to apply before November 1st for the fall semester of the following year. Of course, in this case, you need to follow an early preparation process. It may be a little more difficult to identify schools, prepare documents, take tests, and so on. Because it occurs at a very early time, it can be difficult especially for an international student who may not have genuine motivation for such preparation. Regardless, the best schools close their doors to applications in January at the latest.

So, what do these “early action” and “early decision” terms mean, and what are the advantages? Let’s start with the term “early decision”. Most schools set November 1st as the earliest application deadline and they call it their early action or early decision date. Fifty percent of admissions are completed in this time frame. Scholarships are distributed at a higher rate to those students who applied before November 1st. Acceptance rates are also higher. In fact, schools are looking to finish things early. If you apply before November 1st, you receive the results in mid-December. It then takes quite a while for you to decide which school you will be going. The concept we call early decision explains an early application that is binding you to the school. In the early decision process, schools increase your scholarship and acceptance rates; however, they add certain rules.

If you prefer the early decision option and if the school accepts you, you must go to the specific school. Let us say you chose six different schools and applied to one of them using the early decision option. This school accepted you and awarded a decent scholarship. Since you indicated this school as your preference by utilizing the early decision option, all applications to other schools will be canceled by the application platforms that you use (e.g., the Common App, Coalition App). You may wonder how schools get in touch with each other to figure out who applied with which option (i.e., early action, early decision, regular admission)? Since most students complete their applications via the Common App or Coalition App, the system automatically eliminates the applications to non-preferred schools. There are of course exceptions, since you may receive less financial aid than you expected. You may still not accept the school’s offer, even though early decision applications are binding.

Early action admission, on the other hand, can be summarized as an application that does not bind the student to the specific schools. Simply, you apply to schools in this category before November 1st, and after the decision letters arrive, you can choose wherever you would like to go based on the schools that have accepted you. If we compare the early decision and early action mechanisms, it can be said that your chances are increasing a little more in early decision applications. The reason is simple. Students scrutinize, and there is not much change of decision after acceptance. Schools are already giving their acceptance with higher scholarships, because they are operating under the assumption that those students will “most probably” accept and enroll. Below, I want to share the early action early decision and regular decision acceptance rates of some universities. Let me remind you again. Start your process early. Complete your applications before November 1st.

Institution Early Action Admission Rate Early Decision Admission Rate Regular Decision Admission Rate
Santa Clara University 70.1% 74.1% 46.3%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute 62.8%   27.5%
Elon University 62.6% 98.7% 70.6%
Ohio State University 62.4%   29.1%
Sewanee: University of the South 58.2% 64.4% 24.8%
Dickinson College 56.6% 68.4% 36.5%
University of Miami 50.4% 63.8% 24.4%
Fordham University 50.2% 47.6% 42.5%
Case Western Reserve University 43.6% 37.5% 23.3%
Boston College 33.6%   31.9%
Georgia Institute of Technology 33.3%   15.1%
Tulane University 32.1% 35.9% 10.3%

Erkan Acar, PhD

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