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Everything you need to know about early admission to college

What is there to know about applying to college? For starters, you can apply for early admission with options like Early Action and Early Decision. We’ll go through the different types of early admission and what they mean for your application process. Read on to see if apply early is right for you.

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What is early admission?

Early admission is the practice of sending in your application before to the regular application deadline, usually by November. Applying early to schools that offer early admission may increase your chance of acceptance.

There are two different paths in the early admissions process: early decision and early action. Both paths have different benefits and different agreements you make with your college of choice. Only about 10% of schools offer early action, early decision, or both.

Early Decision: Binding commitment

Early decision is ideal for high school students who know where they want to go. This is a way to be sure you'll get a spot in the incoming class of your top-choice college. If accepted, a student who applies early decision must attend that college and withdraw any applications submitted to other schools.

You will not be able to consider a different school, even if they offer a better financial aid package. Early decision is a binding commitment to the college.

Early Decision II: A second chance for early applicants

What happens if you know that you want to apply early decision to a specific college but you miss the early decision deadline for the fall semester? You may still be able to apply early if the college offers an Early Decision II option for admission. Early Decision II is like an extended deadline for early application that is usually due in January or February.

Choosing Early Decision II tells the school that you're still really interested in attending. With this option, you have more time for campus visits and you get to use your senior year grades. But remember, Early Decision II is still a binding commitment upon acceptance.

Early Action: Non-binding option

Early action is a non-binding application. Students submit applications before the due date without having to commit to a school right away. The early action option allows more time for exploring financial aid possibilities from multiple colleges.

Early action deadlines come up in November or December. If early action sounds like you, make a plan to have your application materials ready beforehand.

Restrictive Early Action: What you need to know

There is another type of early action – restrictive early action (REA). In REA, students can apply early to a specific school with the agreement that they will not apply early anywhere else. After applying REA, you can still submit your application through regular decision at public institutions and international universities.

An advantage of restrictive early action is that you'll receive your admissions decision much faster. These programs may also be much more competitive than other types of early or regular application. If restrictive early action sounds like you, be sure to read through and understand the policies of each institution of interest.

Advantages of applying for early admission

Applying early can make the application experience feel more manageable. Early admission can also enhance your chances of gaining acceptance to your dream school!

Increased acceptance rates

Many colleges have early decision or early action programs that offer higher acceptance rates when compared to regular decision. Applying early also shows your commitment and interest in the school, which can make a positive impression on the people who review your application. By applying early, you are competing with a smaller pool of applicants. Granted, those applicants may also be very strong candidates, but the pool of applicants is definitely smaller than in regular application.

Early access to housing and scholarships

Applying at an earlier stage opens up opportunities of scholarships or housing priority that may not stay open very long into the regular application process.

Peace of mind

Early admission offers students the certainty that they have a choice to attend if admitted. It also reduces stress by letting them focus on their senior year with classmates, friends and family. In the case that your application is rejected, you'll have plenty of time to adjust your application for the regular admissions window. The next time you apply, you'll have application experience that many of your peers might not have!

Factors to consider before applying for early admission

Financial aid, deadlines, and application options are helpful factors to consider when applying to college early.

Financial aid and early application

If your college plans rely on monetary support for attendance, regular decision may be more beneficial to you. Because FAFSA opens in December, students will not be able to review financial aid packages early. You'll want to have the option to compare financial aid packages from other institutions if cost is an important factor in your decision.

Deadlines for different colleges

It is important to be aware that the early admission deadlines usually come up in November or December. Applicants must begin working on their application and taking any required exams before those who are submitting a regular admissions application. Make sure you research each college’s deadline thoroughly. Some institutions may have earlier cutoffs around mid-October.

Opportunity for normal or early application

Learn about specific application plans offered by your colleges of interest. You'll find that colleges may offer one option and not the other. Careful research on the policies is your best bet.

Strength of your early application

A strong candidate for early application will have a consistent and impressive academic history. Consider early application if, by the end of your junior year in high school, you have strong test scores, a high GPA, recommendations from mentors and a robust list of extracurriculars.

How do you know if Early Action or Early Decision is right for you?

Early admission may be right for you, if:

  • You have really dived deep into researching colleges and found your top choice.
  • Your top choice college has your program, you have an estimate of the cost and you can picture yourself succeeding there.
  • Your application checks all the boxes for admission and/or exceeds the requirements: test scores, GPA, class rank, extracurriculars, etc.
  • You have a consistent, solid academic record with or without your senior year accomplishments.

Knowing each college’s deadlines and policies is essential in creating an effective plan for getting into your dream school. Seek out help from a guidance counselor or college advisor if needed during the admission process.

To put your best foot forward in early admission, it’s important maintain good grades, do well on standardized tests, and create a well-rounded application that showcases your unique skills and interests. With careful planning and a solid effort, you'll improve your odds of being admitted to your dream school!



The application to Central Michigan University takes around 15 minutes to fill out. Your application to the school is also an automatic application for merit scholarships. Estimate your merit award and schedule a visit to get an idea of what life at Central could mean for you!




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Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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