Q&A Do Early Admissions Programs Confer Admissions Benefits?

A lot of top universities have an obvious higher EA or ED acceptance rate than RD, but most of them just explain that this happens because the early applicants are very strong academically and hence the higher acceptance, not because apply early has any advantage over RD. However I think applying early must have something to do with such high acceptance rate regardless of your academic ability. Are those schools saying the truth?

This is a really common question that unfortunately is not easy to answer. Given that we don’t get to read the applications for each college, we can’t say with 100% certainty. However, we can say that colleges have a great incentive to accept as many applicants as possible via early decision programs. Colleges want to have a high yield because it is a significant factor in US News and World Report rankings. A college’s yield is the percentage of admitted students who choose to matriculate. When students are admitted early decision, they are obligated to attend the institution. Thus, 100% of early decision accepted students matriculate to the given college. As a result of this incentive, most students, parents, and college counselors infer that students applying early decision do have an advantage in the application process.

Early action is a different story. Students who apply EA are not bound to attend the school. Analyses reveal that the yield for EA applicants is roughly the same of regular decision applicants. The college does not seem to have much of an incentive to accept more students in the early action round. As a result, it is more likely that the higher admission rates stem from having more qualified applicants.