Defining Early Action
Early action programs allow students to apply to colleges and universities at an early deadline and in turn receive a decision earlier than regular decision applicants. Unlike early decision though, early action applications are not binding. This means that students are free to attend any other schools to which they are admitted.
Most colleges offering early action are not restrictive. Students are allowed to apply to as many schools as they wish through early action and are also allowed to apply to a school early decision. Other schools offer restrictive or single-choice early action programs. These programs put limitations on the schools to which early action applicants can apply. For instance, a student applying early to one school may be barred from applying to a school early decision but is free to apply to other schools through early action programs. Another school with a single-choice early action program may permit the applicants to apply to only that school early. Students are barred from participating in any other early or rolling admission programs.
Early Response Early action applicants get to hear decisions from their schools of choice several months earlier than their regular decision counterparts. Schools will typically tell applicants whether they have been accepted, deferred, or denied between mid-December and early February. Students who are accepted can have real peace of mind knowing they are able to attend that college.
No Commitment Unlike early decision, early action does not require a binding commitment. Students are free to make the decision of whether or not matriculate. That flexibility makes early action programs very appealing to applicants.
Compare Financial Aid Early action allows applicants to hear their decisions early but again gives them the flexibility to compare financial aid packages.
Somewhat Higher Admissions Rates When comparing EA and RD acceptance rates, typically EA applicants typically fare slightly better. This may be because colleges see the interest demonstrated in early action applications as a way to cushion their yield. However, it is possible that early action applicants are more qualified and as a result, acceptance rates are higher.
No First Semester Senior Year Transcript Some students are late bloomers and need their first semester grades to boost their transcripts. Missing these first semester grades, awards, and test scores can put these late-bloomers at a serious disadvantage.
More Rushed Applications The first semester of senior year can be a stressful time. Classes are beginning in full force, students have to take their SATs and ACTs, and continue with extracurricular activities. College applications can make this time even more stressful. Some seniors may rush through their early action applications because they have such limited time to devote to them.
Less Advantageous than Early Decision With greater risk comes the potential for greater benefits. Early decision poses significantly more incentive for the college to admit students. It is guaranteed yield protection. Early action, on the other hand, poses little incentive for the college to admit more applicants. It does not necessarily boost yield. As a result, admissions rates are typically much lower for early action applicants compared to early decision applicants.