If you're in the midst of college application season, then you know it's time to take action. For some of you, that might be early action, which pushes your deadlines up a couple months.
This guide has the complete list of colleges that offer early action, along with advice on the best way to prepare for an early deadline. Before getting to the list, though, let's go over the ins and outs of the early action admission plan.
What You Need to Know About Early Action
Many schools offer the option of early action. This plan means that you'll both apply earlier than the regular deadline and find out earlier whether or not you got accepted.
The most common deadlines for early action are November 1 and November 15. These deadlines are not flexible; you must get all your materials, including recommendation letters and test scores, to the school by the stated deadline.
Since you apply early, you'll also be notified of your admissions decision early. The most common notification date is in mid-December, so you should find out whether you were accepted, denied, or deferred before you go on winter break.
The possibility of having your application deferred is another unique feature of applying early action. If the early applicant pool is particularly competitive, then the admissions committee might push your application into the regular decision pool and review it again in January or February. If you get deferred and are very interested in the school, you could call its admissions office and ask if there's anything else you can send to strengthen your application before its next review.
Unlike early decision, early action is not binding. You should have until the national response deadline of May 1 to tell your school whether you'll be attending or not. That means that you can still compare admissions and financial aid offers from other colleges—even if you applied to them regular decision—before accepting an offer and sending in your deposit.
There is one circumstance for which early action has a restriction, though. Some schools, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, offer only a restrictive or single-choice early action plan. Restrictive early action plans do not obligate you to accept an offer of admission, but they do mean that you can't apply to any other schools early action.
For most other colleges and universities, you can apply early to as many schools as you want. But if you're applying to Harvard early action, you can't apply early action anywhere else; rather, you have to wait until the regular decision deadlines for your other schools.
Given that early action deadlines are typically in November, what does this mean for your college application timeline?
Your Timeline for Applying Early Action
There's no point applying early action if you don't have a strong application to send. If you want to apply early, you'll need to prepare all your application materials before the November deadline. There are a bunch of moving parts when it comes to applying to college, so it's best to start the process months or even a year in advance.
Read on for suggestions about how to plan out all major parts of your college application, from your SAT/ACT dates and recommendation letters to your official transcript and essays.
Schedule Your SAT or ACT Test Dates
Students almost always improve their scores when they retake the SAT/ACT and study in-between each test administration. If you're applying early action, the October SAT test date will likely be your last opportunity to take it.
SAT scores are typically released within two weeks after you take the test. Fall test dates could be risky in case of delays, and you wouldn't really have time to see these scores before deciding whether or not to send them. Ideally, you'd be finished testing before this October test date if you're applying early action.
Your last opportunity to take the ACT would likely be the September test date (although in 2020 October test dates have been added that also work), assuming your scores become available in time. Again, if you're applying early action, you will feel less pressure if you're already all set with your test scores by the fall of your senior year.
You might take the SAT/ACT for the first time in the spring of your sophomore year. You could then take it a second time in the fall of your junior year and (if needed) a third time in the spring of or summer after your junior year. Alternatively, you could take it first in the fall of your junior year and then again in the spring and/or summer.
If, after all these attempts, you still see room for improvement in your SAT/ACT scores, you'd have one last opportunity to test in the fall of your senior year. Make sure that your score recipients are up to date in your College Board or ACT, Inc. account, since your official score reports will need to arrive by the deadline.
Ask Early for Your Letters of Recommendation and Transcript
Another important consideration is your letters of recommendation. You want to ask at least a month before you deadlines. This means that you should ask by October 1 if your early action deadline is November 1.
It's a good idea to ask your junior-year teachers at the end of your junior year, as your academic work will be fresh in their minds and they'll have the whole summer to work on your rec letters.
Since your guidance office handles sending out your official transcript, make this request a month in advance of deadlines as well.
Work On Your Essays Over the Summer
You also should start thinking about and drafting your personal essay and any other supplemental essays, over the summer before your senior year. You don't want to write your personal essay in a day! It's a very important part of your application that you should spend weeks to months on.
Start by reading the essay prompts and letting ideas simmer in the back of your mind. You might find that the perfect topic pops into your head when you are out for a jog or are getting ready for school in the morning. You should then give yourself ample time to go through several drafts and revisions. Don't forget to get feedback from teachers and ideally friends and parents, too.
Writing your personal essay is a process that takes time; you're trying to present a meaningful and insightful story about your identity in only about 650 words! So use your time wisely to think about, prepare, and revise a strong and memorable personal essay. You'll be glad you did once you get into your busy schedule of classes and activities senior year.
Since gathering and completing all these things takes a few months, you'll want to make sure to keep track of everything in an organized way. We go over how to do this next.
Keep Track Of Your Schedule
To recap, here's a possible timeline for the process of applying early action:
- Leave yourself enough available test dates to take the SAT/ACT. You could take it during the spring of your sophomore year, the fall of your junior year, and a third time in the spring of your junior year. This way, you'll have one last test date in the fall of your senior year.
- Ask your teachers and counselor for recommendations by October 1, or at the end of your junior year.
- Request your transcript and any other documents you need your school to send to colleges by October 1.
- Work on your personal essay (and any other essays) over the summer, leaving yourself a few weeks or even months to brainstorm, draft, get feedback, and revise.
- Work on your application throughout the fall of your senior year. Be sure to proofread it several times and have it ready to go by the stated deadlines.
As you can see, this whole application process starts at least four months before the early action deadline, and much earlier if you include SAT/ACT test dates and test prep.
Early action can be a great option for students because it proves to admissions committees that you're enthusiastic about the school and on top of things. Plus, you can find out months earlier than normal whether or not you got into your college(s).
Ultimately, as long as you plan and prepare ahead of time, you should have a strong, impressive application to send off to your early action colleges.
Now, let's take a look at some popular schools that offer early action and their early action deadlines. We'll then give you the complete list of early action schools and their deadlines.
Early Action Deadlines of Popular Schools
As you can see, most of the following schools have an early action deadline of November 1, although there are some outliers. In the full list below, you'll find even more variation in terms of early action deadlines.
|UNC Chapel Hill||October 15|
|University of Chicago||November 2|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||November 2|
|University of Michigan||November 15|
|University of Notre Dame*||November 1|
|University of Virginia||November 1|
*Indicates Restrictive Early Action
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Beyond these popular schools, there are tons of other early action colleges—we'll go over them next.
Complete List of Colleges and Early Action Deadlines
This exhaustive list of early action schools is arranged in alphabetical order. If you're looking for a particular school, use ctrl + F to search for the name and jump directly to it in our list.
|School||State||EA Deadline||Decision Notification|
|Adelphi University||NY||December 1||December 31|
|Agnes Scott College||GA||November 15 / January 15||December 15 / February 15|
|Assumption College||MA||November 1 / December 15||December 15 / January 31|
|Auburn University||AL||December 1||—|
|Augustana College||IL||November 1||December 20|
|Austin College||TX||December 1 / February 1||January 15 / March 1|
|Azusa Pacific University||CA||November 15||Within three weeks|
|Babson College||MA||November 1||December 15|
|Bard College||NY||November 1||December 31|
|Bay Path University||MA||December 15||—|
|Baylor University||TX||November 2||January 15|
|Becker College||MA||November 16||December 15|
|Bellarmine University||KY||November 1||November|
|Beloit College||WI||November 1 / December 1||December 1 / January 1|
|Bennington College||VT||December 1||February 1|
|Berklee College of Music||MA||November 1||January 31|
|Binghamton University—SUNY||NY||November 1||January 15|
|Biola University||CA||November 15 / January 15||January 15 / February 15|
|Birmingham-Southern College||AL||November 16||December 16|
|Bloomfield College||NJ||November 30||December 31|
|Bridgewater State University||MA||November 15||December 15|
|Bryant University||RI||November 15||January 15|
|Butler University||IN||November 1||December 15-31|
|Caldwell University||NJ||December 1||December 31|
|California Baptist University||CA||December 1||—|
|California Institute of Technology||CA||November 1||December 15|
|California Lutheran University||CA||November 1||January 15|
|Carthage College||WI||Summer||September 15|
|Case Western Reserve University||OH||November 1||December 19|
|The Catholic University of America||DC||November 1||January 1|
|Centenary College of Louisiana||LA||December 1||—|
|Centre College||KY||December 1||January 15|
|Chapman University||CA||November 1||December 31 to February|
|Christendom College||VA||December 1||December 15|
|Christopher Newport University||VA||December 1||January 15|
|Clark University||MA||November 15||—|
|Cleveland Institute of Art||OH||December 1 / January 15||January 15 / February 15|
|Coe College||IA||December 10||Within two weeks|
|College of Charleston||SC||December 1||February 1|
|College for Creative Studies||MI||December 1||—|
|College of Idaho||ID||November 15 / January 15||December 15 / February 15|
|College of Mount Saint Vincent||NY||November 15||December 15|
|College of Saint Benedict||MN||November 15 / December 15||December 15 / January 15|
|College of Wooster||OH||November 15||December 31|
|Colorado College||CO||November 1||December 17|
|Colorado State University||CO||December 1||December 31|
|Columbia University, School of General Studies||NY||January 15 / March 1||March 1 / May 1|
|Concordia College New York||NY||November 15||—|
|Concordia University Irvine||CA||November 15 / February 15||December 15 / March 1|
|Cornish College of the Arts||WA||December 1||December 15|
|Curry College||MA||December 1||December 15|
|Dean College||MA||November 1 / December 1||December 15 / January 15|
|Delaware College of Art and Design||DE||December 1||January 1|
|DePaul University||IL||November 15||December 15|
|DePauw University||IN||December 1||January 15|
|Duquesne University||PA||December 1||—|
|Earlham College||IN||November 15 / January 1||December 15 / February 1|
|Eckerd College||FL||November 15||December 15|
|Elon University||NC||November 1||December 20|
|Emerson College||MA||November 1||December 15|
|Emmanuel College||GA||November 1 / December 15||After December 15 / After January 15|
|Fairfield University||CT||November 1||December 20|
|Fordham University||NY||November 1||December 19|
|Framingham State University||MA||November 15||—|
|Furman University||SC||December 1||January 15|
|George Fox University||OR||November 1||Rolling|
|George Mason University||VA||November 1||December 15|
|Georgetown University||DC||November 1||December 15|
|Georgia College and State University||GA||October 15||Early December|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||GA||October 15/ November 2||—|
|Gordon College||MA||November 1 / December 1||November 15 / December 15|
|Goucher College||MD||December 1||February 1|
|Gustavus Adolphus College||MN||November 1||November 15|
|Hamline University||MN||December 1||December 20|
|Hampden-Sydney College||VA||October 15 / December 1||—|
|Hampshire College||MA||December 1||February 15|
|Hampton University||VA||November 1||January 31|
|Hanover College||IN||November 1 / December 1||Rolling|
|Harvard University||MA||November 1||December 15|
|Hellenic College||MA||December 1||—|
|Hendrix College||AR||November 15 / February 1||Beginning December 15 / Beginning March 1|
|High Point University||NC||November 15||December 16|
|Hofstra University||NY||November 15 / December 15||Beginning December 15 / Beginning January 15|
|Hollins University||VA||November 15||—|
|Howard University||DC||November 1||December 15|
|Illinois College||IL||December 1||—|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||IL||November 15||November 15 to December 15|
|Iona College||NY||December 1||December 25|
|Ithaca College||NY||December 1||February 1|
|James Madison University||VA||November 15||—|
|John Carroll University||OH||December 1||December 21|
|Kalamazoo College||MI||November 1||December 20|
|Kean University||NJ||January 1||January 31|
|Knox College||IL||November 1 / December 1||December 15 / January 15|
|La Salle University||PA||November 1||November 30|
|Lake Forest College||IL||November 1 / January 15||Rolling|
|Lasell College||MA||November 15 / January 15||December 1 / February 1|
|Lawrence University||WI||November 1 / December 1||December 15 / January 25|
|Le Moyne College||NY||November 15||Beginning December 15|
|Lees-McRae College||NC||December 1||December 15|
|Lenoir-Rhyne University||NC||October 16||November 13|
|Lesley University||MA||December 1||January 1|
|Lewis & Clark College||OR||November 1||January 1|
|LIM College||NY||November 15||—|
|Longwood University||VA||December 1||—|
|Loyola Marymount University||CA||November 1||December 31|
|Loyola University Maryland||MD||November 15||January 15|
|Lycoming College||PA||December 1||December 15|
|Lynn University||FL||November 15||—|
|Maine Maritime Academy||ME||November 30||February 1|
|Manhattanville College||NY||December 1||Rolling|
|Marist College||NY||November 15||January 15|
|Marlboro College||VT||January 15||February 1|
|Massachusetts College of Art and Design||MA||December 1||Early January|
|Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||MA||November 1 / December 1||December 15 / January 15|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||MA||November 1||December 15|
|Massachusetts Maritime Academy||MA||November 15||—|
|The Master's University||CA||November 1||—|
|McDaniel College||MD||November 15 / December 15||December 15 / January 15|
|Menlo College||CA||November 15||December 15|
|Mercer University||GA||October 15||November 7|
|Merrimack College||MA||November 15 / January 15||December 1 / February 1|
|Miami University||OH||December 1||January 15|
|Michigan State University||MI||November 1||January 15|
|Mills College||CA||November 15||December 15|
|Millsaps College||MS||November 15||January 15|
|Minneapolis College of Art and Design||MN||December 1||December 15|
|Molloy College||NY||December 1||Decisions "made promptly"|
|Monmouth University||NJ||December 1||January 15|
|Montserrat College of Art||MA||December 6||December 19|
|Morehouse College||GA||November 1||December 15|
|Mount Saint Mary's University||CA||December 1||January 15|
|Mount St. Mary's University||MD||November 1||December 25|
|New York Institute of Technology||NY||February 15||Rolling|
|North Carolina State University||NC||November 1||January 30|
|Northeastern University||MA||November 1||February 1|
|Northwest Nazarene University||ID||November 15||—|
|Northwest University||WA||November 15 / January 15||—|
|Oglethorpe University||GA||November 15||Within two weeks|
|The Ohio State University||OH||November 15||January 31|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||OH||December 1||December 15|
|Old Dominion University||VA||December 1||January 31|
|Oregon State University||OR||November 1||December 14|
|Pace University||NY||November 15 / December 1||—|
|Parsons School of Design (The New School)||NY||November 1||December 31|
|Patrick Henry College||VA||November 1||Rolling|
|Pennsylvania State University (all undergraduate campuses)||PA||November 1||December 24|
|Point Loma Nazarene University||CA||November 15||December 15|
|Pratt Institute||>NY||November 1||Late December to early January|
|Presbyterian College||SC||December 1||December 15|
|Princeton University||NJ||November 1||December 15|
|Providence College||RI||November 1||Early January|
|Purchase College—SUNY||NY||November 15||—|
|Purdue University||IN||November 1||January 15|
|Radford University||VA||December 1||January 15|
|Randolph College||VA||November 15||December 15|
|Randolph-Macon College||VA||November 15||January 1|
|Regis College||MA||November 15||Rolling|
|Rhodes College||TN||November 15||January 15|
|Rider University||NJ||November 15||December 20|
|Roger Williams University||RI||November 15||December 15|
|Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology||IN||November 1||December 15|
|Rutgers—New Brunswick||NJ||November 1||February 15|
|The Sage Colleges||NY||December 1||—|
|Saint Anselm College||NH||November 15||January 15|
|Saint John's University||MN||November 15 / December 15||December 15 / January 15|
|Saint Joseph's College of Maine||ME||November 15||Beginning December 15|
|Saint Joseph's University||PA||November 1||December 20|
|Saint Mary's College of California||CA||November 15||—|
|Salisbury University||MD||December 1||January 15|
|Salve Regina University||RI||November 1||January 1|
|Santa Clara University||CA||November 1||December 31|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago||IL||November 15||—|
|Seattle Pacific University||WA||November 1||—|
|Seattle University||WA||November 15||December 21|
|Seton Hall University||NJ||November 15 / December 15||December 30 / January 31|
|Sewanee: The University of the South||TN||December 1||February 15|
|Shepherd University||WV||November 15||Within 10 business days|
|Siena College||NY||October 15||Within one week|
|Simmons College||MA||November 1 / December 1||December 15 / January 15|
|Southern Methodist University||TX||November 1||—|
|Southern New Hampshire University||NH||November 15||December 15|
|Southwestern University||TX||December 1||March 1|
|Spelman College||GA||November 15||December 31|
|St. John's College||MD||November 15||December 15|
|St. John's College||NM||November 15||December 15|
|Stanford University||CA||November 1||January 2|
|Sterling College||VT||December 15 / January 15||January 1 / February 1|
|Stonehill College||MA||November 1||January 1|
|Suffolk University||MA||November 15||December 20|
|SUNY Cortland||NY||November 15||January 15|
|SUNY New Paltz||NY||November 15||January 15|
|SUNY Oneonta||NY||November 15||January 15|
|Susquehanna University||PA||November 1 / December 1||December 1 / January 15|
|Sweet Briar College||VA||December 1||—|
|Tarleton State University||TX||March 1||—|
|Temple University||PA||November 1||January 10|
|Texas Christian University||TX||November 1||January 1|
|Texas Lutheran University||TX||November 15||Within two weeks|
|Transylvania University||KY||October 31 / December 1||Early December|
|Trinity University||TX||November 1||December 15|
|Tulane University||LA||November 15||January 15|
|United States Coast Guard Academy||CT||October 15||December 23|
|Unity College||ME||December 15||—|
|University of Akron||OH||November 1||—|
|University at Albany—SUNY||NY||November 15||—|
|University of Arkansas||AR||November 15||—|
|University at Buffalo—SUNY||NY||November 15||"Candidates will receive an early response"|
|University of Chicago||IL||November 2||December 15|
|University of Cincinnati||OH||December 1||—|
|University of Colorado Boulder||CO||November 15||February 1|
|University of Dallas||TX||November 1 / December 1||—|
|University of Dayton||OH||November 1||—|
|University of Denver||CO||November 1||—|
|University of Evansville||IN||November 1||December 15|
|University of Georgia||GA||October 15||December 1|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||IL||November 1||December 1|
|University of Kentucky||KY||December 1||Rolling, usually in 4-6 weeks|
|University of Maine||ME||December 1||—|
|University of Maine at Farmington||ME||November 15||Rolling|
|University of Mary Washington||VA||November 15||January 31|
|University of Maryland||MD||November 1||February 1|
|University of Maryland, Baltimore County||MD||November 1||February 1|
|University of Massachusetts Amherst||MA||November 5||January 15|
|University of Massachusetts Dartmouth||MA||November 15||December 15|
|University of Massachusetts Lowell||MA||November 5 / January 5||—|
|University of Miami||FL||November 1||Late January to early February|
|University of Michigan||MI||November 1||—|
|University of Minnesota—Twin Cities||MN||November 1||January 31|
|University of New England||ME||November 15||December 31|
|University of New Hampshire||NH||November 15||January 31|
|University of New Haven||CT||December 15||Rolling, usually in 4-6 weeks|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||NC||October 15||January 31|
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte||NC||November 1||January 30|
|University of North Carolina at Wilmington||NC||October 15||Rolling|
|University of Notre Dame||IN||November 1||December 15|
|University of Oregon||OR||November 1||December 15|
|University of the Pacific||CA||November 15||January 15|
|University of Redlands||CA||November 15||—|
|University of Rhode Island||RI||December 1||—|
|University of San Francisco||CA||November 1||Beginning December 15|
|University of Scranton||PA||November 15||Beginning December 15|
|University of South Carolina||SC||October 15||December 15|
|University of St. Thomas||TX||November 1||December 15|
|University of Tampa||FL||November 15 / January 15||December 15 / February 15|
|University of Utah||UT||December 1||January 15|
|University of Vermont||VT||November 1||December 15|
|University of Virginia||VA||November 1||February 1|
|University of Virginia's College at Wise||VA||December 1 / February 1||—|
|University of Wisconsin—Madison||WI||November 1||January 31|
|Ursinus College||PA||November 1||December 15|
|Utica College||NY||November 15||December 15|
|Vanguard University of Southern California||CA||December 1||—|
|Villanova University||PA||November 1||January 15|
|Wabash College||IN||December 1||December 31|
|Warren Wilson College||NC||November 15||—|
|Washington College||MD||December 1||January 15|
|Washington & Jefferson College||PA||January 15||February 15|
|Wells College||NY||December 15||—|
|Western Carolina University||NC||November 15||December 15|
|Westminster College||PA||November 15||December 15|
|Westmont College||CA||October 15 / November 1||December 1 / Christmas break|
|Wheaton College||IL||October 15 / November 15||Thanksgiving / Christmas|
|Wheaton College||MA||November 15||January 15|
|Whittier College||CA||December 1||December 31|
|Whitworth University||WA||November 15 / January 15||—|
|Willamette University||OR||November 15||December 30|
|Wittenberg University||OH||December 1||January 1|
|Wofford College||SC||November 15||February 1|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute||MA||November 1 / January 15||December 15 / March 1|
|Worcester State University||MA||November 15||—|
|Yale University||CT||November 1||December 15|
Most schools with early action allow you to apply to as many colleges as you want. Just double-check that you know whether your school's early action is restrictive or single choice.
By applying early action, you can rest easy come December with the knowledge of where you'll be attending college next fall. Just don't fall prey to senioritis—you'll still be sending your senior-year grades to your colleges after all!
While you'll spend a lot of time on your essays and on prepping for tests, you also want to put effort into filling out your application forms. This guide goes into detail about how to write about your extracurricular activities on your college apps.
Are you wondering about the differences between early action and early decision? Did you know that early decision isn't necessarily "early"? Read our expert guide to learn more about early decision and how it differs from early action.
Maybe you're tired of reading articles and just want to learn about how to apply to college from a snazzy infographic. I read your mind, right? Check out this awesome infographic on how to get into your top-choice college.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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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.