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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 Is Restrictive Early Action When Applying to College?

What’s Covered:


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 and its pros and cons, and to learn which schools offer REA.


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 for this type of application is most commonly in the early fall of a student’s senior year.


  • Early Action: This is 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: Like early action, REA is non-binding, but students may only apply to one private school with REA. They also can’t apply Early Decision to other schools. They can usually apply EA to public schools, though.


  • Regular Decision: This follows the standard application deadlines, which typically occur in January during a student’s senior year.


  • Rolling Admission: This option allows students to apply to a school at 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, also called single-choice early action, indicate to a college that this college is their first-choice school. Students indicate this by signing an agreement that they will file just one early application at any 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 apply to their chosen institution early, typically at the beginning of November. They can expect an application decision around mid-December, generally. Acceptance via restrictive early action is non-binding, and students have until May 1st (universal decision day) to make their decision. Therefore, students who are accepted through SCEA can wait until they receive all their regular admissions decisions before committing.


What Are the Pros of Applying Restrictive Early Action?


The benefits of applying to an REA/SCEA program are that, if accepted, students can put the college application process behind them—allowing them to focus their energy on preparing for college and on 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 that the early applicant pool usually 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 allows them to compare costs, consider financial awards, and visit (or revisit) the school before committing.


What Are the Cons of Applying Restrictive Early Action?


The most notable disadvantage 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. They only allow 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. Additionally, if rejected, students may be disheartened as they work through the regular admissions process for their second-choice schools.


Which Schools Offer REA?


The list of colleges offering REA/SCEA is small, and each institution has its own guidelines and rules for students applying to these programs. Consult with their admissions departments to better understand the limitations.


Below is a list of schools that offer REA:




REA Acceptance Rate

Overall Acceptance Rate

Boston College | BC

Chestnut Hill, MA



Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.



Harvard University

Cambridge, MA



Princeton University

Princeton, NJ



Stanford University

Stanford, CA



University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN



Yale University

New Haven, CT




How Does Applying Early Impact Your Chances?


Data show that applying early decision can boost your chances of acceptance across the board, even when accounting for your individual strength as an applicant. In other words, you’re more likely to get in when you apply early decision than when you apply to the same school through regular decision!


On average, applying early decision results in a 60% increase in your chances of admission into super selective schools. Since early action and restrictive early action do not involve a strict commitment to a college, the increase is less pronounced with EA and REA. Nevertheless, data show that these types of applications can still help increase your chances of acceptance.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? CollegeVine can help! Our free chancing engine takes into account whether you’re applying REA or RD, so it can give you an estimate of your chances for both application timelines. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!


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.