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


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What is Restrictive Early Action When Applying to College?

For some accomplished high school students hoping to attend a prestigious university, restrictive early action (REA), also called single-choice early action (SCEA), offers an excellent way to demonstrate one’s commitment to a particular college. Keep reading to find out more about restrictive early action, its pros and cons, and learn which schools offer REA.


Want to know your chances at the schools you’re applying for? Calculate your admissions chances right now and understand your odds before applying.


What are the Different Types of College Admission Deadlines?


  • Early Decision: this is a binding application—if a student is accepted, they’re committed to going to that school. The deadline most commonly occurs in the early fall of a student’s senior year.  



  • Early Action: similar to early decision, with the major difference being that acceptance is not binding; a student can still decide whether or not they want to attend if accepted.


  • Restrictive Early Action: also like early action, REA is non-binding, but students may only apply to one private school REA. They can usually apply EA to public schools, however.


  • Regular Decision: the standard application deadline, typically occurring in January of a student’s senior year.


  • Rolling Admission: allows students to apply any time up to a certain date—the application will remain open and students are admitted until the institution fills its class.


What is Restrictive Early Action?


Students applying for restrictive early action or single-choice early action indicate to a college that it’s their first-choice school by signing an agreement that they will file just one early application at a private institution. Students may, however, apply to other colleges via regular admissions or rolling admissions. They may also apply for a public school’s early application program or apply to a foreign college or university at any time, so long as those programs are non-binding.


Students applying for REA/SCEA will need to submit an application to their chosen institution early, typically the beginning of November. They can expect an application decision often around mid-December. Being accepted restrictive early action is non-binding and students have until May 1st (universal decision day) to make their decision. Students who are accepted SCEA can therefore wait until they have all their regular admissions decisions back before committing.


What Are the Pros of Applying Restrictive Early Action?


The pros of applying to an REA/SCEA program is that if accepted, students can put the college application process behind them—allowing them to focus their energy on preparing for college, and alleviating the stress and uncertainty of waiting to hear back from their dream school. Colleges like REA/SCEA applicants because they’re able to single out students who are truly interested in attending their institution; because of this, admission rates are higher for students who apply early. Keep in mind, the early applicant pool also contains the strongest candidates, which gives early admission rates a boost too.


Restrictive early action/single-choice early action lets students hear back from their first-choice school early and gives them the opportunity to compare cost, financial awards, and visit (or revisit) the school before committing.


What Are the Cons of Applying Restrictive Early Action?


The most notable con of restrictive early action/single-choice early action is that students need to have built a strong college profile—including impactful extracurricular activities, meaningful letters of recommendation, and an eye-catching essay—early in their senior year. The early deadline can also cause over-anxious students to rush through the application process, consequently not presenting their best work to their top school.


REA/SCEA programs are also highly limiting in their nature (after all, “restrictive” is in the name)—allowing students to apply to only one school—unlike regular early action, which allows students to apply to multiple schools early. This reduces a student’s odds of being accepted early, and if rejected, students can be disheartened as they work through the regular admissions process for their second-choice schools.


What Schools Offer Single Choice Early Action?


The list of colleges offering REA/SCEA is small—the program is available only at Boston College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Notre Dame, and Yale University. Each institution has its own guidelines and rules for students applying to these programs; consult with their admissions departments to better understand the limitations.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!


For more information on applying early, check out our post: Does Applying Early Increase My Chances?

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.