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Differences Among Early Action, Restrictive Early Action and Early Decision

There are usually two rounds of application for the universities in the US: Early Action (with a deadline in early November, and candidates will receive a response in December) and Regular Decision (deadline is usually in late December or early January, and applicants will hear from the school in March or April). For early application, several elite schools use Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision. We would like to summarise the differences between these three in the hope that it will help our members to find out which universities are suitable for them.


Early Action is a non-binding admissions procedure that allows students to apply to college before the regular deadline. Students are informed of the admissions result in December but are not required to commit if accepted. MIT is the only renowned university that practises this non-restricted, non-binding early admission pathway.


Restrictive Early Action (or Restricted Early Action, Single Choice Early Action) are not binding, but applicants for Restrictive Early Action at one university may not apply to any other private college/university under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan. Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford praticse Restrictive Early Action.


Early Decision programs are binding, meaning that if admitted, candidates must accept the offer of admission. If they are deferred for review during Regular Decision, they are not bound by the Early Decision binding agreement. Universities such as Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, UPenn, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern use Early Decision.


Restrictive Early Action and Early Decision applications are usually for students who are absolutely certain about where they wish to attend college and are fully prepared to submit their application materials early.


We strongly suggest students carefully check the admission guidelines and rules of the universities that they wish to apply to and to do as much self-exploration as possible to know if Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision is for them. If you need any suggestions in terms of choosing schools and subjects, please feel free to contact us.

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