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  • The Ins and Outs of Applying Early

When Applying Early Action Makes Sense

If you want to keep your options open and still get admitted early, consider applying for an early action acceptance.

Early action is the most flexible way to apply early. You can usually apply early to other colleges. If you are accepted, you are not required to attend.

Applying Early Action to More Than One College

Almost all early action policies allow applicants to apply to other schools for early or regular admission decisions. A few highly selective schools, however, employ "restrictive" or "single choice" early action policies. With these programs, students who apply early action are not allowed to apply early decision or early action elsewhere.

What It Takes to Apply Early Action

If you decide to apply for an early action decision, your application deadline will probably fall in November or December. Many students applying early action start working on their applications during the summer before their senior year. You will need to complete all your standardized tests no later than October of your senior year.

When Applying for an Early Action Decision Makes Sense—or Doesn't

Applying early might relieve you of some anxiety, especially if you get accepted. However, it adds stress to your fall semester—when you should be focusing on your grades. And it makes no sense to apply to colleges you know little about. Do the research to be sure your early action colleges have the academic, campus, and social qualities you want. Also, if you don't meet a college's admissions standards, applying early won't help. You are better off improving your grades and applying for a regular decision.

Suppose You Don't Get Accepted?

If a college does not accept you under early action, you may still have a chance to get in. The college may automatically add you to its regular admission application pool. If it does not, you are free to reapply by the regular admission deadline. Check the admission policies of each college you're interested in.

Other Ways to Get Admitted Early

Many colleges provide other options to shorten your time waiting for a decision. Some schools have "rolling" admissions, which means they accept applications all year until their class fills, and usually send decisions within a few weeks of receiving your application. Some schools offer "second round" early action programs that let you apply by the regular deadline but get your answer sooner than normal.