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  • Gabriella Goldberg

Survey: Seniors Overwhelmingly Apply Early Action, Split on Early Decision

College pennants in the senior project room / Credits: Frankie Ruppert

College application season is coming to a close, so now is a great time to review our seniors’ experience with the process. A major part of applying to college is deciding what application route to follow. Many schools offer a variety of ways to apply before the regular decision (RD) due date, including early decision (ED), restrictive early action (REA) and early action (EA).

The Rookery anonymously surveyed 63 seniors to get a sense of which of these options the Walls class of 2023 chose. About 40 percent of seniors who responded to the survey said they applied early decision, while over 80 percent said they applied early action to at least one school.

ED is a binding agreement: If a student is admitted after applying under the plan, they are obligated to attend. Students can only apply to one school through ED, although some schools offer a second round of early decision, known as ED II, at the time of the regular-decision deadline. Students are allowed to apply to other schools EA while submitting ED. 41.3 percent of surveyed seniors applied through ED.

Students who applied ED cited increased admission odds, more favorable access to scholarship money, and clear top choices as advantages of the admission plan. “I knew where I wanted to go and I wanted to maximize my chance of getting accepted,” one respondent said.

Another agreed: “I love the school but it’s pretty selective and ED boosts my chances of getting in!”

However, other students were deterred by ED’s binding agreement, and many were not comfortable financially committing to a school without knowing the cost. “I did not [apply ED], because the only schools that I would feel comfortable applying ED to, I would need a lot of financial aid, which isn’t guaranteed,” one senior said.

Others did not want to emotionally commit to a school, citing indecisiveness. A respondent said that “I did not have a strong top choice and wanted to keep my options open.”

Unlike ED, students who apply restrictive early action (REA) are prohibited from applying to any other private schools EA, with limited exceptions, but it isn’t binding. It is only offered by a few highly selective universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. It offers students more flexibility and variety, especially if they don't have a top school, but is not an option at most colleges. Only 11.1 percent of survey respondents applied through REA.

Many seniors said that they didn’t know what this choice was. Still, a proponent said “I knew this school was my top choice and I wanted to hear back as soon as possible, so I applied for REA.”

Early action (EA) offers early application and decision dates without the restrictions of other admission plans. Its flexibility makes it appealing to a broad range of students: 81.0 percent of surveyed seniors applied through EA. One respondent said that they applied EA “to get [college applications] out of the way and get results quicker.”

Unlike ED, EA has some financial benefits. One respondent said, “applying EA made it more likely for me to receive a merit scholarship.”

Many students noted the stress of Senior Project deadlines overlapping with college applications. “Don't procrastinate, especially as Senior Project has a similar timeline as college apps so it's kind of a pain,” one senior advised.

Now that applications are in, we are so excited to see where our penguins end up!


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