Would you like to know where you'll be going to college as soon as possible? If you apply early action, then you might have your plans all set by winter break of your senior year. That's a big leap forward compared to waiting until regular notification in April!
A large number of schools offer an early action deadline in addition to a regular decision deadline. This guide will go over what you need to know about applying early action, along with a comprehensive list of all the schools that offer it. To start, how does early action work?
What You Need to Know About Early Action
Early action can be a great option if you've done your college research and are prepared with all the different parts of your application by the November deadline. Data shows that a greater percentage of early action candidates get accepted than regular decision candidates. However, this higher admission rate may reflect the competitiveness of early action applicants, rather than suggest that applying early gives you a special advantage.
A good rule of thumb to go by is this: apply early if you're organized and prepared with a strong application. Wait until regular decision if your application would be stronger with a couple more months of preparation. Your highest priority should be to send the best application you can.
The most common deadlines for early action are November 1 and November 15. You'll typically hear back from your college in mid-December. Hopefully, the news makes for a happy new year!
Even though you hear back early, you're not obligated to respond to an offer of acceptance any earlier than the national response date, which is May 1st. You can hang onto that acceptance letter while you wait to hear back from all the colleges you applied to. Then you can compare offers and financial aid packages once you've received all your admissions decisions.
Just like with regular decision, you application may be accepted or denied. There's also a third option: getting deferred. Getting deferred means that your application will be pushed into the regular decision pool, to be reviewed again in February or March.
If you're deferred and remain very interested in the school, then you might send along mid-year grades or test scores if you think they could help your application. You could also call the admissions office and find out if there's anything you can send to strengthen your candidacy.
For the most part, you can apply to as many early action colleges as you want. However, a few schools have restrictive or single-choice early action, which means you can't apply early anywhere but that one school. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale all have restrictive early action policies. You can still go ahead and do regular decision elsewhere, but you can only apply to one of those schools under an early action deadline.
Besides these four universities, what other colleges offer early action deadlines?
Can't wait to find out which campus you'll be admiring fall foliage on? Applying early action might be for you!
Complete List of Early Action Schools by State
Below is the complete list of schools with early action, organized by state. Some popular ones include Boston College, CalTech, MIT, Georgetown, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Virginia, and Villanova.
Search for your school of interest by state, or hit "Ctrl + f" on your keyboard and type in the first few letters of the school to be brought right to it.
|University of Arkansas|
|Azusa Pacific University|
|California Baptist University|
|California Institute of Technology|
|California Lutheran University|
|California State University Sacramento|
|California State University San Bernardino|
|Concordia University Irvine|
|Loyola Marymount University|
|Notre Dame de Namur University|
|Point Loma Nazarene University|
|Saint Mary's College of California|
|Santa Clara University|
|Soka University of America|
|University of Redlands|
|University of San Francisco|
|University of the Pacific|
|Vanguard University of Southern California|
|Colorado State University|
|Fort Lewis College|
|University of Colorado Boulder|
|University of Denver|
|United States Coast Guard Academy|
|University of New Haven|
|Delaware College of Art and Design|
|Catholic University of America|
|Trinity Washington University|
|Palm Beach Atlantic University|
|University of Miami|
|University of Tampa|
|Agnes Scott College|
|Georgia College and State University|
|Georgia Institute of Technology|
|Georgia State University|
|University of Georgia|
|College of Idaho|
|Northwest Nazarene University|
|Illinois Institute of Technology|
|Illinois Wesleyan University|
|Lake Forest College|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago|
|University of Chicago|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology|
|University of Evansville|
|University of Notre Dame|
|Centenary College of Louisiana|
|Southern University at New Orleans|
|Xavier University of Louisiana|
|Maine College of Art|
|St. Joseph's College of Maine|
|University of Maine|
|University of Maine at Farmington|
|University of Maine at Machias|
|University of New England|
|Loyola University Maryland|
|Mount St. Mary's University|
|St. John's College|
|United States Naval Academy|
|University of Maryland|
|University of Maryland Baltimore County|
|Bay Path College|
|Berklee College of Music|
|Bridgewater State University|
|Framingham State University|
|Massachusetts College of Art and Design|
|Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts|
|Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|Massachusetts Maritime Academy|
|Montserrat College of Art|
|Salem State University|
|University of Massachusetts Amherst|
|University of Massachusetts Dartmouth|
|University of Massachusetts Lowell|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute|
|Central Michigan University|
|Michigan State University|
|University of Michigan|
|Bemidji State University|
|College of Saint Benedict|
|Gustavus Adolphus College|
|Minneapolis College of Art and Design|
|Saint John's University|
|Rocky Mountain College|
|Sierra Nevada College|
|Saint Anselm College|
|Southern New Hampshire University|
|University of New Hampshire|
|Georgian Court University|
|Ramapo College of New Jersey|
|Saint Peter's University|
|Seton Hall University|
|William Paterson University|
|St. John's College|
|College of Mount St. Vincent|
|College of St. Rose|
|Columbia University, School of General Studies|
|Concordia College New York|
|Le Moyne College|
|New York Institute of Technology|
|Purchase College (State University of New York at Purchase)|
|State University of New York at New Paltz|
|State University of New York College at Cortland|
|State University of New York College at Oneonta|
|State University of New York Institute of Technology|
|The King's College|
|University at Albany|
|Fayetteville State University|
|High Point University|
|North Carolina State University|
|University of North Carolina at Asheville|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte|
|University of North Carolina at Wilmington|
|Western Carolina University|
|William Peace University|
|Sanford College of Nursing|
|Case Western Reserve University|
|Cleveland Institute of Art|
|Cleveland State University|
|College of Wooster|
|Columbus College of Art and Design|
|John Carroll University|
|Ohio Wesleyan University|
|University of Akron|
|University of Dayton|
|University of Tulsa|
|George Fox University|
|Lewis & Clark College|
|Oregon State University|
|University of Oregon|
|La Salle University|
|Saint Joseph's University|
|Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania|
|University of Scranton|
|Washington & Jefferson College|
|EDP University of Puerto Rico|
|University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez|
|Roger Williams University|
|Salve Regina University|
|University of Rhode Island|
|College of Charleston|
|University of South Carolina|
|Sewanee: University of the South|
|Abilene Christian University|
|Southern Methodist University|
|Tarleton State University|
|Texas Christian University|
|University of Dallas|
|University of St. Thomas|
|Johnson State College|
|Lyndon State College|
|Saint Michael's College|
|University of Vermont|
|Christopher Newport University|
|Emory & Henry College|
|James Madison University|
|Old Dominion University|
|Patrick Henry College|
|University of Mary Washington|
|University of Virginia|
|University of Virginia's College at Wise|
|Seattle Pacific University|
As you can see, there are a lot of early action schools. Does it give you an advantage to apply early to a school? In one sense, applying early may communicate your enthusiasm for the school and suggest that you're committed to going there. Admissions officers may appreciate this commitment.
It's possible that admissions committees accept a higher percentage of early action candidates to get a higher "yield." In admissions talk, this means that more early candidates will accept offers than regular decision candidates, so colleges can more accurately predict their enrollment numbers. At the same time, applying early isn't going to make lower grades or test scores look higher, especially since early action students tend to be some of the strongest.
Below is a timeline that you might follow if you are applying early action. By scheduling out your college planning months before this early deadline, you can be prepared with an impressive application by November.
Timeline for Applying Early Action
If you choose to apply early action, then you have to be immersed in college planning a few months earlier than you would be for regular decision deadlines (though either way, you'll benefit from preparing a long time in advance). The components that especially require early planning are the SAT or ACT, your recommendation letters, and your personal essay. In the fall, you'll also want to submit your transcript request form to your guidance office, as well as take your time filling out the Common Application or school's individual application.
In terms of the SAT or ACT, it's always a good idea to leave yourself opportunities to retest. Students almost always improve when they retake the SAT or ACT, especially if they do focused, targeted test prep in between test dates. If you apply early action, then your last opportunity to take the ACT would be the September test date. For the SAT, you could take it in October of senior year.
Since this is pushing it right up to your early action deadline, you probably wouldn't be able to view your scores before deciding whether or not to send them. With all the other busy things going on in the fall of senior year, it'd be easier to have your test scores done earlier. You could take the SAT or ACT in the spring of sophomore year, again in the fall of junior year, and then again in the spring of junior year.
Think about how much time you can devote to test prep and how many times you'd like to take the tests to achieve your target scores. As you can see, planning out your SAT and ACT could start as early as two years before your actual early action deadline.
In terms of your recommendation letters, you want to give your teachers and counselor at least a month's notice to write your letter. That means you should ask for your recs before October 1st of your senior year. It can also be a good idea to ask at the end of junior year. Your junior year teachers will remember you most clearly then, and they may appreciate how on top of college applications you are.
Just like with letters of rec, you want to spend some time planning and writing your personal essay, and any other supplemental essays. I'd recommend working on it over the summer. Even just reading the essay prompts at the beginning of the summer will help you start brainstorming topics in the back of your mind. Then you can spend a few months drafting, getting feedback, and revising your essay to its college-ready state.
Finally, in September and October you can work on your application, proofreading all the information and writing about your extracurricular activities in the most compelling way. By starting the application process in the spring of junior year (earlier including the SAT or ACT), you should be ready with a thoughtful and well-executed application by November.
Do you have your sights set on the Ivy League? Learn what it takes to get into Harvard and other highly selective schools from this Harvard alum.
Now that you know which schools offer early action, check out this guide on all the early action deadlines! It goes over the most popular early action schools, along with a comprehensive list of all the colleges with early action deadlines.
Are you also interested in early decision? This guide shows all the early decision schools and their deadlines.
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.