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What are EA, ED, and RD?

Most US colleges and universities offer multiple chances to apply early, which sometimes means an increased chance of acceptance (especially for ED I – see below). To help you organize the information about each type of admissions, here’s a list to cover them and their primary points, such as their deadlines and whether or not they limit what other schools you can apply to.

  • Early Action (EA): As its name may suggest, Early Action allows students to apply to their top choice schools sooner than Regular Decision does. These applications are non-binding, meaning that students don’t need to commit to the school if they are accepted, and may even apply to other schools as well. The deadline for Early Action is usually in November of senior year, and decisions are released in December.

  • Restrictive Early Action (REA): A restrictive application usually means that a student cannot apply to more than one school. However, in the case of REA, students may usually apply to one private school offering REA and then apply EA to multiple public schools. School policies differ, so if you see that a school offers EA, it is best to check their application policy page to see what their exact policies are. Regardless, similar to EA, students do not need to commit to the school upon acceptance to REA schools. The deadline for REA is also usually in November of senior year, and decisions are released in December.

  • Early Decision: Similar to REA, Early Decision admissions means that a student can only apply to one Early Decision school. However, unlike with REA, some schools running Early Decision applications may not allow you to apply to other schools at the same time, while others may allow you to apply to one EA school. Furthermore, the decision for ED is binding, meaning that if a student is accepted, they must attend that institution. The deadlines for ED I are similar to EA deadlines, meaning students submit their applications in November of senior year and decisions will be released in December.

  • Regular Admissions: Most students applying to US universities will apply through regular decision, which is due in early January. Regular admissions are non-binding and non-restrictive, meaning that a student can apply to as many schools as they want and not be obligated to go to any that they are accepted into. Students will receive the schools’ decisions in late March or early April.

  • Rolling Admission: Schools with rolling admissions have applications available throughout the year. Applications only close when the college fills up its available spots for that term.

Additionally, both ED and EA may be offered twice in select institutions, otherwise known as ED I, ED II, EA I, and EA II. While there is no major difference between ED/EA I and ED/EA II, the deadlines for ED/EA II are in January, only slightly earlier than the regular deadlines. Students applying ED/EA II receive offers in mid-February.

Why do so many students choose to apply early?

But why would students apply for ED or EA over regular decision, which allows for a larger range of schools to apply to? Generally speaking, ED and EA are meant to show a stronger interest in the school a student is applying to, meaning that schools will likely view their applications in a more favorable light. Thus, a student may have a higher chance of being accepted ED or EA than through regular decision. Indeed, schools’ self-reported acceptance rates show as much. For example, Columbia’s ED acceptance rate was 14.6%, three times higher than its regular decision acceptance rate of 4.3%. Similarly, Boston College has an acceptance rate of 39% for ED but only 17% in RD, while University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported 30% for their EA and 11% for RD. While some of the differences between application rates in early decisions versus regular decisions may be attributed to recruited student athletes, who count towards a large part of early admissions, students should still consider applying if they have a competitive profile. However, applying ED or EA may not always be the best decision; doing so may severely limit a students’ choices, as students may not be able to further explore the schools they are applying to and consequently make decisions based on incomplete information. Furthermore, if a student still needs to raise their grades and standardized testing to look more competitive for the colleges they are applying to, then they should avoid applying ED or EA. Because of this, ED and EA applications should ultimately only be attempted if a student is completely sure of their choice and they have already considered other options, and have a strong enough profile to do so.


Wondering which application type is right for your child? Application strategies differ from student to student, so call or WhatsApp 9835 8011 or visit to learn more about how early applications can fit into your university admissions strategy!


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