getting accepted to college

Early Action (EA) has become more confusing in recent years with the advent of “Single-Choice Early Action” or “Restrictive Early Action.”  In today’s post we are going to break down what Single Choice Early Action/Restrictive Early Action mean so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you should apply under this application plan.

What is Single-Choice/Restrictive Early Action?

Unlike Early Decision, Single-Choice/Restrictive EA allows students to apply earlier in their senior year without having to make a binding commitment to enroll at the institution if admitted.  Additionally, students who apply via Single-Choice/Restrictive EA are welcome to apply to non-binding programs at public colleges/universities and international institutions at the same time.  Sounds pretty good so far, right?  Well, Single-Choice/Restrictive Early Action does come with a catch: students may not apply to other private institutions via an Early program, including Early Decision, Early Action, and any other college’s Single-Choice or Restrictive Early Action. (Note: some colleges that offer Single-Choice/Restrictive EA have wiggle room regarding Early Decision II programs and Rolling Admission programs, but that’s something to look closely at per each institution you plan to apply.)

Why apply to a school with Single-Choice/Restrictive Early Action?

Single-Choice/Restrictive EA is a method by which colleges can identify students who are truly interested in their university, and most likely to enroll if admitted.  The admission office wants to know that you are choosing to forgo the Early Action or Early Decision benefit at other applicable schools to show that their college is where you want to be.  Each year it is harder and harder for admission offices to predict whether or not an admitted student will actually enroll at the college.  Thus Single-Choice/Restrictive EA allows the admission office to have a stronger gauge of the likelihood that a student might actually accept an offer of admission and matriculate at the college.

At some schools, like Tulane, Single Choice Early Action is more similar to the Early Decision process in that it is the best way for a student to truly demonstrate their interest. At Tulane, if a student is a borderline candidate, applying Single-Choice EA might give them an extra push in the admission process.  At other institutions, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, Single-Choice/Restrictive EA does not increase your chance of admission.  While the acceptance rate through Single-Choice/Restrictive EA might be higher than Regular Decision depending on the school, the EA pool at Ivy League and other highly selective institutions usually contains the strongest applicants in the admission pool, so looking solely at admit rate can be misleading.

How do I choose if Single-Choice/Restrictive Early Action is right for me?

Talk to your family, your counselor, and think about whether there is one school you are truly interested in attending, with the understanding that you might be forgoing the Early Decision or Early Action benefit at other colleges to do so.  Single Choice Early Action/Restrictive Early Action is a great way to apply and hear back from your top-choice college earlier in the process, while being given the flexibility to evaluate your financial aid awards before committing to one school.  However, you need to be comfortable with the restrictions placed on your ability to apply to other institutions at the same time.  Above all else, make sure you read the details of Single-Choice/Restrictive EA closely because each college varies in the exact details of their policy for this application plan.

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Written by Christine Kenyon
Christine Kenyon is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Prior to joining College Coach, Christine was a senior admissions officer at Babson College and a scholarship reviewer and interviewer at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University. Visit our website to learn more about Christine Kenyon.