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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What Are the Different Ways to Apply Early to College?

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by CollegeVine co-founder, Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Options for Applying Early to College


As you begin your college applications process, there are a few different types of early applications that you should be aware of. With the admissions process, colleges generally have multiple submission deadlines that have different policies and potential benefits. 


Colleges have a final application deadline, typically called regular decision, which all students must apply by in order for their application to be considered for an admissions decision the following spring. 


In addition to this regular decision deadline, colleges will have early application deadlines where if you submit your application earlier in the admission cycle, typically in the fall, you’ll get an admissions decision earlier on as well. For some colleges, that means that you apply in November and you get your decision back in December or in early January. 


That said, there are a few options for applying early that will vary from school to school. Early decision (ED) and early action (EA) are the two main types of early applications. Within EA, there is a special type of application called restrictive early action (REA), or sometimes single choice early action (SCEA). Each of these options will come with specific guidelines and their own individual deadliness.


Early application deadlines typically fall between October and early December. Depending on the school, and whether it offers a second round of EA or ED options, this second set of deadlines typically fall between January and February. Understanding all of the important dates and deadlines for your school list is key to prioritizing and successfully navigating your college application process. 


Applying Early Decision


The first type of application to be aware of is ED. For ED, you’ll apply to a college by their early decision deadline under what’s considered a binding application.


This means if you get accepted through ED, you are committed to attending that college for at least one academic year. Consequently, once you receive that admissions decision, you’ll need to withdraw your applications from other colleges. 

It is incredibly difficult to get a waiver once a student has applied and been accepted ED. This is true even if your reason for not wanting to attend is being able to afford your education. So even if you apply to a college and you find that the financial aid or merit scholarship package is lacking, you still have to attend. This is incredibly important to keep in mind as you weigh your early application options.


Applying Early Action


Unlike ED, EA is a non-binding early application option. When you apply EA, you’re really just submitting your application earlier in the cycle and getting that decision a bit earlier. EA applications do not require you to enroll in the college upon being accepted. However, some EA colleges place restrictions on the other types of colleges that you can apply to in that early round. 


When a college has these types of restrictions, they’re typically referred to as REA or SCEA. These are really only used by six highly selective colleges: Harvard, Notre Dame, Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, and Princeton. It’s worth noting that while Georgetown’s policy is neither REA or SCEA, for EA applicants, there are some limitations on the other applications that you can submit in November. 


The types of restrictions for REA and SCEA policies do vary depending on the college. For REA or SCEA applicants to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, you’re not allowed to apply either EDor EA to other private colleges. You can still apply EDor EAto other public colleges and public college programs. 


Georgetown and Notre Dame have a slightly different policy; their policies don’t allow you to apply ED to any other colleges, but they do allow you to apply EA. So you can apply EA to Georgetown and Notre Dame and then also to Caltech and MIT if you wanted to, but you just can’t apply ED anywhere.


Early Action and Early Decision II


In recent years, many colleges have set up a second EA or ED deadline for students to apply under, often coined EAII or EDII. Under these decision plans, the same binding or non-binding policy applies, simply along a different timeline. EAII and EDII applications often run tandem with the regular decision deadline, but with earlier admissions decisions than regular decision.


So the EDII application is still binding. That binding application is just submitted in January or February rather than November. Most colleges that offer an ED application now offer EDII. 


EAII is a far less common designation with fewer benefits than an ED or regular EA application process. In fact EAII is less common than EDII at colleges because regular EA gives the college some useful information about you as an applicant and your level of interest, but EAII doesn’t really add too much. If your top schools offer EAII and you’d like to get that earlier admissions decision you should still apply, though you don’t really get that much of a benefit from it. 


Looking for more information about early applications? Check out this post to learn 

more about the benefits of applying early and if it makes sense for you!