Benefits of Applying to College Early Action
You know which schools you want to apply to. You’re happy with your grades and extracurricular activities. It’s still the first semester of senior year, but you’re revved up and ready to start the college application process.
Good news: There is a deadline for people like you. It’s the early action college application deadline.
The early action deadline is fast approaching. If your top school options are early action colleges , you might be wondering if you should jump on the early action train or wait until spring semester.
What Is Early Action?
Most students apply to colleges in January or February and usually hear back about acceptance in March or April (although the national response date is May 1).
But the most common deadlines set by early action schools are Nov. 1 or Nov. 15, and they often notify applicants around mid-December. A few schools’ early action deadlines are as late as December or January, so you might hear back a little later than those who apply in early November.
Maybe you’re wondering, “What does early action mean?” There’s a significant difference between early action, restrictive early action, and early decision.
Early action, sometimes referred to as non-restrictive early action, allows you to apply early to multiple colleges simultaneously. Schools with restrictive early action policies only allow you to apply early action to that college. Neither type of early action requires you to enroll should the university accept your application.
Then there’s early decision. If you go this route, you must enroll if a school accepts you. You can only apply to one college early decision, but you can apply for regular admission to other schools. If you’re accepted for early decision at one institution, you have to withdraw your application from all other schools and enroll at that university.
Certain early action schools give you the option to apply for either early action or early decision. Choosing early decision over early action lets the school know that you’re dedicated.
Reasons to Apply Early Action
Increasing Your Chances of Acceptance
Statistics show that if you apply to college early action or decision, you might be more likely to be accepted. Some professionals argue that these results can be attributed to the pool of students applying being more qualified than those who apply at the regular deadline: they know what they want, and they may be confident enough in their grades and extracurriculars to apply early.
There may be some truth to this, but others believe that a college’s “yield” is one of the most important factors.
Yield refers to the percentage of accepted students who actually end up enrolling. If a school’s yield is high, it could help the college look better in college rankings and afford to be more selective about which students it admits.
Your chances of acceptance vary depending on where you apply. For example, for fall 2019, Rice University accepted 8.7% of regular admission students and 15.5% of early decision students. Brown University accepted 4.8% of regular deadline applicants and over 18% of early decision applicants.
Knowing Where You’ll Be Next Year
It should come as no surprise that applying for college can be a stressful process. Filling out applications, writing essays, requesting reference letters—it’s a lot to handle. If you have to do it all while studying for finals, planning prom, and dealing with the emotions of finishing high school, it can be downright overwhelming.
By applying for early action, you could potentially alleviate a lot of stress. By either applying to one school or submitting a handful of applications early, you can enjoy peace of mind throughout your final semester of high school.
What if these early action schools don’t accept your application? Then at least you’ll have an answer relatively early, and you can start working on your safety school applications.
Saving Time and Money
Applying to colleges can be a lengthy process, especially if not every school on your list accepts the Common Application . It can also be an expensive process, with college application fees averaging around $43.
While there is no “right” number, The College Board ’s rule of thumb is to apply to five to eight colleges to help ensure your chances of acceptance are decent. If each application cost $43, however, you could end up spending $215 to $344 on applications. (And some applications might cost more than $43.)
Instead, you could apply to, say, your top three schools for non-restrictive early admission and see what happens, rather than paying to apply to multiple safety schools right off the bat.
Some students want to take the ACT or SAT as many times as possible to boost their scores. If you apply for early admission and are accepted, you might not have to take these tests again. Considering the ACT costs between $52 and $68 and the SAT costs $49.50 to $64.50, not retaking these exams could save you a pretty penny—and a lot of preparation time.
Unfortunately, getting accepted to college isn’t the final step of the madness. The next thing you know, it’s time to prepare for your first day of college.
Shopping for your dorm room. Choosing your major. Meeting with your advisor. The list of things to do before stepping foot into your first class often seems never-ending.
The earlier you know which school you’ll be attending, the earlier you can get started on this list of duties. This means you might feel less rushed and have time to make more thoughtful decisions. If you can spread out these activities, you might have more time to enjoy your friends and family before you move on to the next phase of life.
Enrolling in college early could also give you additional time to figure out how you’ll finance your education.
Planning for College Financing Early
If you haven’t already discussed the topic of money with your parents, this might be a good time to sit down and have “the talk.” No, not that talk—the talk about who will pay for your education, and how.
Unless you or your family is paying completely out of pocket, you have a few options. Your first step would be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®. At that point, you can work with your college to find out how much you would be eligible to receive in federal and state scholarships and grants.
These are two types of gift aid that don’t require repayment. For the most part, you’ll apply for grants based on financial need, and scholarships based on merit. While the federal and state governments do offer scholarships and grants, gift aid can also come from private companies, nonprofit organizations, and your college.
If scholarships and grants don’t cover your full tuition and extra expenses like room and board and books, you may want to consider applying for federal student loans, such as Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans . These are loans you have to start paying back after graduation, if you drop out of school, or if your enrollment drops below half-time.
Another option is private student loans. These loans come from private lenders rather than the federal government. Interest rates vary from lender to lender depending on factors like credit score and family income.
You should exhaust all your federal aid options first before considering private student loans. Many private lenders’ rates are higher than the rates on federal loans, and private student loans are often more difficult to qualify for on your own.
But if your federal aid package hasn’t covered your cost of attendance, and if you do a little shopping around, you might be able to find a private student loan that works for your needs.
Private student loans with SoFi offer flexible repayment options and the ability to manage your loans completely online. In addition, SoFi Private Student Loans have no origination fees, late fees, or insufficient funds fees.
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