Boarding and Day · Co-ed College Prep · Grades 6–12 & Postgraduate · Hebron, Maine

What Are the Advantages of Applying in the Early Admission Cycle?

Patrick Colonna

As we approach application season for the Class of 2022, I wanted to take this time to offer some information about the early admissions options including Early Action, Early Decision, and priority applications.

Over the past 10 years, we have seen colleges and universities accept an increasingly large portion of their incoming classes via early admissions. Just the past week, admissions representative Stanley Zatkowski shared with Hebron students that BC took 47% of the class of 2020 via Early Decision. 

There is no shortage of data related to early admission applications. Here are a few recent comments: 

Harvard University admitted 747 applicants who applied early action (which is nonbinding) to the institution this year. The number of early applicants was 10,086, up from 6,424 for last year's class. Brown University admitted 885 students who applied early decision (which is binding) this year. The application pool was 5,540, up 22 percent in a year. Dartmouth College admitted 566 students, from a pool of 2,664, up nearly 29 percent.

(Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik February 8, 2021)

Here is the breakdown of the different “early admission” options:

Early Decision is a binding application and indicates that a school is a student’s top choice and that they are prepared to commit to that college or university upon acceptance. Early Decision applications require a contract signed by the student, parents, and counselor which acknowledges the student’s commitment to the university upon acceptance. ED admission rates do indeed tend to be higher than the rates of those accepted during the regular admission process, but students applying ED also tend to be more qualified and carefully matched to the institution.

Early Action is a non-binding application that encourages students to apply earlier (usually in the fall,) while also providing quicker admissions decisions. Almost all students will submit at least one “early action” application. There is no downside to applying “Early Action”: the student submits their application early and gets a decision by December or January. Colleges often add additional perks such as fee waivers, preferred housing, and maximum scholarship opportunities for students applying early action.

Priority is similar to Early Action in that it is non-binding and allows students to apply early and get a decision more quickly (again, usually in December or January.) Priority applications are also often connected to scholarship. Students should pay close attention to admission statistics and scholarship deadlines related to “priority” applications. 

What are the advantages of applying ED or EA? Applying early and knowing the result by December or January can reduce stress especially as regular decision responses are being released later and later each spring. Submitting a binding Early Decision application demonstrates that a college is that student’s very top choice and can provide some advantage in the review process. In comparing ED and EA, applying Early Action allows a student to get a response more quickly, but because the decision is non-binding, the student can still compare financial and admission options between schools.