Some students shouldn’t rush their college applications.

There are three deadlines available to high school seniors applying to college: Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Deadline. This post focuses on Early Action (EA), in which a student applies to college sooner than a Regular Deadline applicant, learns if they’ve been accepted earlier than a Regular Deadline applicant, but has until May 1 to make their decision, the same as a Regular Deadline applicant.

As a college admissions coach, I encourage most of my clients to apply Early Action, but not all. Here’s why.


Academic profile requires a boost Sometimes a student needs to show they’re back on track academically after a bad semester or two. Waiting and submitting improved midyear grades with your application helps make that case.

With EA, the entire application must be submitted by the deadline. That includes SAT/ACT scores. If your child’s scores won’t be available by then or they need to take one of the tests again after the EA deadline, they should wait to apply so that they can submit their best scores.

A kid who knows they’re not a top candidate will want to do what they can to improve their chance of admission.

Application package is missing pieces Though your teen swore they’d work on their application essay over the summer, then moved that back to early fall, the draft they wrote at the end of junior year in English class is still waiting for a revision. The essay matters and it should reflect your student’s best work. Rushing it will only hurt their chances.

Maybe your student is waiting to find out if they’re going to be picked as captain of the winter track team, which they want to use to show their leadership ability and commitment to an activity.

Your student forgot to ask for teacher recommendations at the end of junior year. Now they’re scrambling to find the right teacher and one who hasn’t maxed out their recommendation limit. Your teen’s will be one of the last the teacher writes.

List of colleges is still in flux If your teen’s list of colleges stands at 25 or only four, then they need to work on refining their list. Though they can apply undecided, having no clue what program they’re interested in or career path they want to explore makes it hard to decide where to apply. They’ll want to pick schools that provide the most options in terms of their potential majors.

Schedule doesn’t allow room for EA applications Once school starts, many seniors are busy with activities like fall sports, marching band season, the fall musical/drama, debate season, etc. which require major time commitments. Adding that to a full academic course load (yes, full) leaves little time to focus on college applications. Rushing to meet EA deadlines risks submitting less than your best application.

Majority of your colleges don’t have Early Action When only one or two of the colleges where your student plans to apply have an EA deadline, it might make more sense for your teen to wait and complete all their applications in time for Regular Deadline.

EA may not really matter I’ve been on college tours where an admissions officer claimed 90 percent of their acceptances came through EA and others who said it didn’t have such a dramatic impact. Here’s an example: Georgetown University accepted 12 percent of students from its Early Action pool and 15 percent from its Regular Deadline pool.

The bottom line You can check a college’s website to learn whether when a student applies impacts their chances of acceptance, but the bigger priority is ensuring your senior puts together the best application package they can. That might mean not applying EA and submitting by the Regular Deadline.

Share your thoughts on not applying Early Action in the comments section below.