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Guide to Early Action Deadlines

Posted by: Website Administrator on 9/23/2013

As you prepare to apply to college in the coming months, you’ve probably come across several types of early application deadlines. The variety of deadlines can be difficult to navigate, making it hard to know when to apply to a particular school. Our series of blog posts about early deadlines, starting with Early Action, will clarify the nuances and differences, and help you make an informed decision about early applications.  

Generally, Early Action deadlines fall around early or mid-November, but can be as early as October 15, and as late as December 1. Early Action admissions decisions are usually released by mid-December, before winter vacation. Beyond this shared timeline, Early Action and its variants – Single Choice Early Action and Restrictive Early Action – have their own nuances and requirements.
Early Action
Early Action is generally the least restrictive of the early deadlines. Under Early Action, your application is non-binding, and you can submit early applications to multiple colleges, as long as the other schools don’t have any restrictions of their own. 

When you apply Early Action you’ll typically receive one of three decisions: admitted, deferred, or denied. If your application is denied, you have not been admitted and you cannot reapply to that school again later in the admissions cycle. If your application is deferred, that means the admissions office isn’t ready to make a final decision on your application…yet. They will set your application aside until Regular Decision, review it again at that time, and then send you a decision in the spring. If you’re admitted through Early Action, you don’t have to accept the offer, and you don’t have to make a decision until May 1. You’ll be able to apply to other schools during Regular Decision and compare offers from multiple colleges.

If you want to take the SAT or ACT in the fall of senior year, you’ll be able to submit your October scores in time, but not all colleges will accept November scores for Early Action. If you’re planning to take a November test, be sure to check with each college about their policies surrounding submitting those scores for Early Action.

Not all schools offer Early Action, but if they do, and you’re ready to apply, there’s usually no downside. If you’re not admitted, you’ll still be able to apply to other colleges. If you are admitted early, it’s great to know you have someplace to go for sure, and you have until May 1 to make up your mind whether or not you want to attend. 

Single Choice Early Action and Restrictive Early Action
Single Choice Early Action and Restrictive Early Action (SCEA and REA) are, at their most basic level, more restrictive versions of Early Action. Like Early Action, SCEA and REA are non-binding and you have until May 1 to accept an offer of admission. However, SCEA and REA limit how many other early applications you can submit. 

It’s important to note that there’s no standard definition for SCEA and REA, and one isn’t more restrictive or limiting than the other. The names are sometimes used interchangeably, and each college develops its own policies no matter which deadline they use. Most colleges that use an SCEA or REA deadline will at least restrict applicants from applying somewhere else under a binding Early Decision Program. Beyond that, each SCEA and REA deadline at each college will have its own nuances. If you’re interested in a school that uses SCEA or REA, it’s important to check with the admissions office about their specific policies.

You’ll want to think carefully about applying Single Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action because it will limit how many early applications you can submit. If one of your top choice colleges offers SCEA and REA, applying early can be a nice way to show them you’re interested. 
If you’re ready, and have a couple of top choice colleges, submitting an early application or two is a great way to begin the college application season. It makes you collect your application materials early, be on top of writing your essays, and you could possibly gain a couple of admission offers by winter break. However, it’s important to pay attention to the specific type of early deadlines at each college. Understanding the different types of early deadlines will help you make smart decisions about when to apply.