Everything You Need to Know About Restrictive Early Action
June 13, 2022
Everything You Need to Know About Restrictive Early Action
You may have heard of schools using early decision and early action policies for students who are enthusiastic and want to show their commitment to a school. However, as you are looking through the different routes, you might be surprised to stumble upon something known as single-choice early action or restrictive early action that is used by a few top schools. What exactly does this mean? And how should you navigate it? In order to help you gain a better understanding, we have explained restrictive early action, or REA in further detail, outlined which schools use it, and noted down the advantages and disadvantages of going such a route over traditional early decision.
What Is Restrictive Early Action
Before we get into the definition of REA, let’s look at early decision and early action in closer detail. Early decision is a binding admissions process for students to apply to college earlier than the regular deadline, usually in November of senior year. Students receive admissions notifications in December, and if accepted, are required to commit. Early action on the other hand is a nonbinding admissions process for students to apply to college earlier than the regular deadline, usually in November of senior year. Students receive admissions notifications in December, and if accepted, are not required to commit.
Restrictive Early Action is a process more restrictive than early action but less committal than early decision. Students can apply only to their single-choice EA institution in the early round, with exceptions. Students can’t apply to any ED school, but can apply to other EA schools. Some schools refer to this process as “single-choice early action” which is also a nonbinding process for students to apply to their top institution. Students cannot apply to other schools EA or ED.
Schools That Use REA and Their Policies
There are a handful of colleges that have implemented restrictive early action or single-choice early action. Let’s take a look at which colleges use this policy and how they define it:
Princeton University’s single-choice early action program is a nonbinding process. If admitted, you have until May 1 to notify them about your decision to matriculate. If you apply single-choice early action, also known as restrictive early action, on Nov. 1, you may not apply to an early program at any other private college or university. However, please note the following:
- You may apply early to any public institution or service academy, as long as the decision is nonbinding.
- You may apply early to any international institution, as long as the decision is nonbinding.
- You may apply early to any college or university with a nonbinding rolling admission process.
Harvard welcomes interested applicants to apply under their Restrictive early action plan by November 1 in order to be notified of a decision in mid-December. Restrictive early action is a non-binding early program, signifying that if admitted, you are not obligated to attend, and have until May 1 to reply to their offer of admission.
- If you are applying to Harvard under restrictive early action, you may not apply to any other private institution under an early decision, early action, or restrictive early action plan, or to a binding early program at a public university.
- You are welcome to apply early to any public university, military academy, or university outside of the United States under a non-binding program.
- Additionally, you are able to apply to other universities under their regular decision or early decision II programs.
- If your application is deferred in the early action round, you may apply to a binding early decision program at another college (i.e. early decision II).
- You may apply for scholarships or special academic programs with an early deadline at another institution, public or private, if the timing is proven to be a necessary aspect for consideration, and the outcome is non-binding.
- Harvard will meet the full financial need of admitted students regardless of whether they apply restrictive early action or regular decision.
Yale’s early action plan is unlike many other programs in that if you apply for single-choice early action at Yale, you may not simultaneously apply for early action or early decision to any other school with a few exceptions. If you apply early to Yale, you are indicating that the only EA/ED application you intend to file is Yale’s, unless another early application is covered by one of the exceptions listed below:
- You may apply to any college’s non-binding rolling admission program.
- You may apply to any public institution at any time, provided that admission is non-binding.
- You may apply to another college’s early decision II program, but only if the notification of admission occurs after January 1. If you are admitted through another college’s early decision II binding program, you must withdraw your application from Yale.
- You may apply to another college’s early action II program.
- You may apply to any institution outside of the United States at any time.
Restrictive early action is Stanford’s nonbinding early application option.
Restrictive early action may be a good option for you if all of the following apply:
- You have identified Stanford as your first choice;
- You have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well;
- You have enough time before the November 1 deadline to write a thoughtful application.
It is Stanford policy that, if you apply to Stanford with a decision plan of restrictive early action, you may not apply to any other private college/university under their early action, restrictive early action, early decision, or early notification plan. In addition, it is Stanford policy that you may not apply to any public university under an early binding plan, such as early decision. If you apply to Stanford under restrictive early action, you may apply to other colleges and universities under their regular decision plan. If you apply to Stanford under restrictive early action and your application is deferred, you may apply to another college’s early decision II plan.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame has a non-binding restrictive early action program.
- A student applying restrictive early action to Notre Dame may apply to other early action programs at either private or public colleges or universities.
- A student applying restrictive early action to Notre Dame may not apply to any college or university (private or public) in their binding early decision program.
- Students do not indicate a first-choice preference by applying early, and still may wait until May 1 to indicate their decision to attend.
- On rare occasions, students will request to move their regular decision application to restrictive early action. If you have submitted your regular decision application by the restrictive early action deadline of November 1, you may make this request through your applicant status portal no later than November 15.
In keeping with this principle, students applying under the early action program may not apply to any binding early decision programs since they then would not be free to choose Georgetown if admitted. Students are, however, allowed to apply to other early action or other regular decision programs while simultaneously applying to Georgetown’s Early Action program.
Pros and Cons of Restrictive Early Action Versus Early Decision
Schools use early action and early decision admission numbers as ways of estimating the yield of incoming classes. Since colleges know students applying early are likely or formally bound to commit, early applicants are more likely to get accepted. If you apply early decision to a school that allows it, the admissions office will know you are committed to attending it. However, even if you apply restrictive early action, you are not committed to attending. This makes it difficult for the admissions office to gauge whether or not you will actually attend the school.
Applying either restrictive early action or early decision to college not only increases your chances of acceptance, but if you’re accepted, you don’t have to submit regular decision applications if you get in REA to your dream school! Of course, you should continue working on RD applications until you hear back to prepare for all outcomes. But once you’ve been notified, you’ll have a giant responsibility lifted off your shoulders. Plus, you’ll be able to save time and money.
The advantage of applying REA over ED is that you don’t necessarily have to have to commit to attending if you’re admitted. For example, if you get in Yale REA but you might want to try your luck at Harvard and Stanford too you can apply RD and see which ones you get into and decide your school in May. However, if you apply ED to Columbia, you’re bound to attend Columbia in the fall.
A disadvantage of both REA and ED is timing. You’ll need to have everything in order and ready to go 2 months earlier. If stronger second quarter grades could benefit your profile or you’re waiting to achieve something major before January, hold back on early decision or restrictive early action.