As you develop your college list, categorize the schools into “reach, target, and safety” schools, and prioritize them in terms of where you would most like to attend. Then decide if applying earl
y is right for you. See below for more information about applying early and what it means for you.
There are many benefits to applying early, including showing interest, submitting your applications so you can focus on 7th semester grades, taking advantage of public institutions’ early action, and the list goes on. Over 500 higher education institutions offer either Early Action or Early Decision options, so be sure to explore what each school has to offer and decide what is best for you. It is important to understand if applying early is binding and if that is the right decision for you.
Below are the most common early application options, listed from least to most restrictive.
Early Action: Students apply early (usually by November 1) and receive early notification (usually by the end of December) with no restrictions. Students can apply to several schools through Early Action and will not be bound to any one school. This is the most flexible option. Most public universities, such as The University of Michigan, offer an Early Action deadline.
Restrictive Early Action (also referred to as “single-choice early action”): REA is a non-binding early action option in which a student may only apply to one private school’s early program. Schools that offer REA include: Boston College, The University of Notre Dame, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. Applicants sign a statement acknowledging that they will only submit one REA application. Students may apply to other schools through Early Action, as long as the admissions decision at that college/university is non-binding.
Early Decision: Early Decision (deadline is usually November 1) is binding, so if a student applies through Early Decision and receives admission, he/she is obligated to attend that school. Upon acceptance to the school, a student must withdraw all other applications. For students who want or need to compare financial aid offerings, this option does not leave you the opportunity to wait until the spring to compare.