Should I Apply To College Early Action?


Raj Patil, Co-founder of Admissionado

“Should I Apply To College Early Action?”

The short answer: Sure.

Reasoning: Cuz, why not?

Thank you and goodnight!

OK, and now for the long answer…

If you’re investing the “early action” question at all, it means you’re at least somewhat on the ball. Or, you overheard some other helicopter parents drop the phrase and you’re wondering what the heck it is.

Either way, you’re here. Welcome. Let’s unpack this issue methodically.


Early Action = Higher Acceptance Rate (Usually)

When you apply “regular decision,” your chances of admission, as reflected by the “acceptance rate,” will be X. (We’re talking raw statistics here.) If you were to apply “early action” to that same school, you’ll notice that the acceptance rate is usually a higher number. Before you conclude that this means that your actual chances of admission are higher, just accept that that’s not necessarily the case. We’re not gonna get into the details of that issue here, but just to give you a sneak peek: many will argue that the pool of applicants is stronger, so while the acceptance as a percentage is higher, the difficulty of piercing through remains just as hard, possibly even harder.

If you allow yourself to get sucked into that “well which is it, easier or harder?” game, you’re only gonna end up conflicted, confused, and, worst case, it can cripple the entire process.

We prefer a simpler approach that slices clean through the debate, and allows you to push the ball downfield, and progress. Here it is: “apply early.” See how easy that was?

Here are some uncomplicated arguments for why we suggest this:

WHY apply early action?

  1. It forces you to begin the process early. Super early. And in our years of experience of reviewing thousands of applications, there is a curious correlation of success at the TOP universities (literally the most ELITE universities like Harvard and Stanford and the like) between students who start VERY early, and those who ultimately get into those places. So, to exaggerate the point, whether you actually submit Early Action or not, if it forces you to begin the process way ahead of time, generally, desirable results are in your future.
  2. Even if you “go through the motions” to complete an application early action for a school you have only mild interest in, the very act of developing a complete application AHEAD of the late December deadlines, puts you in an excellent position for the remaining schools on your list. Being ahead of the ballgame is worth its weight in gold. It allows you to add schools and take risks. It allows you to avoid confused applications that tend to result when they are RUSHED. This list could go on. Take our word for it, being ahead of the eight ball here is wise.
  3. What if it does help your chances, probabilistically? Even the possibility that that’s true makes it worth taking a shot to at least one (and maybe even a few) programs. If you’re wrong, so be it. You’ll prove it by getting into a bunch of schools through the regular decision pool instead.

Now, if for whatever reason you are NOT able to push any applications out Early Action, don’t worry. Hope is not lost, by any stretch. Consider that most of your classmates will have gotten accepted during regular decision. But, the idea here is, if you’re a Junior, and you have the option, rather than spend precious energy agonizing over should, could, does, if, etc… just go for it. And start actually working on cementing your profile.

Don’t get stuck, is strangely, what we’re driving at. We see it so often. There are so many potholes for parents and students to fall into. Don’t get stuck. “Do stuff that’s productive.” This decision alone will increase the stakes for how you spend your summer. It will get you thinking about your personal statement in a different way. It’ll force you to figure out what gives your profile true strength… true uniqueness. And it’ll force you to consider these things MONTHS ahead of when your classmates will do the same.

Get ahead of the game. Start early. Apply early. Don’t get stuck.

by Raj Patil is the co-founder of Admissionado, an Undergraduate and MBA admissions consulting firm.