Can You Apply For Early Action/Early Decision Multiple Times | 2024?

how many early action can you apply
how many early action can you apply

College applications can feel like a maze! There are all these different deadlines and options, like Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED). You might be wondering how many Early Action can you apply to at different schools.

The answer? It depends! In this post, we’ll explain the difference between EA and ED in plain English. We’ll explain what “apply early” means and why some colleges offer this option.

We’ll also answer the big question: can you double-dip on these programs, or are you stuck with just one shot? By the end, you’ll know how to navigate these early application options and feel confident about your college application strategy!

But first, what is an early action?

What is Early Action?

Early action is an option provided by specific colleges where you can apply for admission before the regular deadline. By applying early action, usually around November 1st, you can receive a decision from the college earlier, typically in mid-December.

In comparison, regular decision applications have a deadline in early January, and admission decisions are typically announced in March or early April.

When you opt for early action, you must submit the same application materials as you would for a regular decision but with an earlier deadline.

There are three possible outcomes when you apply for early action: acceptance, denial, or deferral. You cannot reapply for the same academic year if your application is denied.

In the case of a deferral, your application is moved to the regular applicant pool and reevaluated in the subsequent round. If this happens, it may be worth contacting the school to inquire if there is any additional information you can provide, such as your first-semester senior year grades, to enhance your chances of acceptance.

Unlike early decisions, which we will discuss later, early action is not binding. If you receive an offer of admission, you are not obligated to accept it immediately (unless you choose to do so). Instead, you have until May 1st to inform the college whether or not you intend to enroll, allowing you time to compare admissions and financial aid offers from other schools you have applied to.

You can also apply under the regular decision to other colleges. However, the following section will address whether you can apply for early action at multiple schools.

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How Many Early Action Can You Apply To?

You can apply to as many schools as possible under early action or regular decision. However, a few don’t allow it. These schools have what is called restrictive early action or single-choice early action. This means that if you apply early action to one of those schools, you can’t apply early action to any other schools. The following colleges have restrictive early action plans:

SchoolRestrictive Early Action Policy
Harvard“If you apply to Harvard under our Restrictive Early Action program, you may also apply early to non-binding public or foreign colleges/universities (no Early Decision programs), but you may not apply early (in any form) to U.S. private colleges/universities. Similarly, you may apply to an Early Decision II program or a private rolling admission program after you receive your Restrictive Early Action admissions decision from us (typically in mid-December). Public or foreign rolling-admission programs are allowed at any time if non-binding.”
Princeton University“If you apply single-choice early action, also known as restrictive early action, on Nov. 1, you may not apply to an early program at any other private college or university.” However, you may apply early to a public or foreign university if the decision is nonbinding.
Stanford University“If you apply single-choice early action, also known as restrictive early action, on Nov. 1, you may not apply to an early program at any other private college or university.” However, you may apply early to a public or foreign university as long as the decision is nonbinding.
University of Notre Dame“A student applying Restrictive Early Action to Notre Dame may apply to other Early Action programs at either private or public colleges or universities [but] may not apply to any college or university (private or public) in their binding Early Decision program.”
Yale University“[I]f you apply for Single-Choice Early Action at Yale, you may not simultaneously apply for Early Action or Early Decision to any other school with a few exceptions” Exceptions are early action programs at public schools and early decision/early action at private schools that have a deadline after you receive your application decision from Yale.

Each of the five schools implementing a restrictive early action policy is prestigious and highly competitive, often categorized as private institutions. Generally, these schools allow early action applications to public universities or foreign universities.

Still, they may not permit early action applications to other private universities (except for Notre Dame, which allows early action applications to private schools).

Some schools may also impose restrictions that prevent applicants from applying under regular decision until they receive their early action decision. However, you can apply to any other school after the early action decision.

Therefore, it is possible to apply early action to multiple schools, even if you are applying to a school with a restrictive early action plan. Nevertheless, adhering to each institution’s specific rules and limitations is crucial.

Early Action vs. Early Decision: What are the Differences?

To begin with, it’s important to note that when applying for early decision, you can only apply to one school. The early decision entails a binding agreement stating that you are committed to enrolling in that particular school if accepted.

This commitment is formalized through a contract that requires signatures from you, your parents, and your school counselor.

However, you can apply to other schools through early action, including the most restrictive early action schools (though it’s advisable to check their policies to confirm). But if you are accepted to the school you applied to with an early decision, you must attend.

Generally, early decision deadlines align with early action deadlines. You submit your application by November 1 and receive a response by mid-December.

Like early action, you may be accepted, denied, or deferred (in which case, the binding agreement no longer binds you).

Some schools also offer Early Decision II, which is binding but has a later deadline. Early Decision II deadlines typically fall in January, and you receive a response in February. If accepted to your preferred school, you must submit a deposit well before the national response date of May 1st for both Early Decision I and Early Decision II.

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More on Early Decision

Early decisions are suitable for students who want to finalize their college plans early and prefer a specific institution. If you have thoroughly researched and are sure about a particular college, applying early decision conveys your enthusiasm to the admissions committee.

Students who apply for early decision generally have a higher acceptance rate than those who apply for regular decision or early action to the same school. Colleges value students who demonstrate a genuine interest in their institution. Therefore, if you are confident that a specific school is your top choice, it can positively impact your admissions prospects.

What is the Advantage of Applying to Early Action?

The impact of applying early, whether through early action or regular decision, on your chances of admission is not straightforward. While data does indicate that a higher percentage of early-action candidates are accepted compared to regular decisions, various factors must be considered.

For instance, schools with higher acceptance rates for early action may have a larger pool of highly qualified early applicants. It’s possible that students who apply early, especially to selective schools, are generally stronger candidates compared to those who apply for regular decisions.

It’s worth noting that some colleges, like MIT, explicitly state that there is no advantage or preference associated with either application cycle. They emphasize that the purpose of having two cycles is to manage their workload and provide applicants with more options.

The advantage of applying early action largely depends on the specific school. Colleges appreciate the higher yield of early-action candidates and their enthusiasm for attending. However, the early action pool could be more competitive than the regular decision pool. Applying early will not significantly improve weaker grades or test scores.

Compared to other early applicants, weaker academic performance may appear even less impressive.

Therefore, it is essential to prioritize submitting the most robust application possible. If you have thoroughly prepared before the November deadline and feel confident, applying early action may be a suitable choice.

However, if you need more time to strengthen your application, you should wait and apply in January. Don’t feel obligated to apply early action simply because you think you should. Take charge of your college planning and choose the best option for you.

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How to Know if Applying Early is right for You

Applying early can be a good idea if you know which college you want to attend. That means you’ve researched its programs and, if possible, visited its campus.

But think twice about applying early if:

  • You want to compare admission and financial aid offers from several colleges.
  • You’d benefit from having another year of high school work to show colleges.

Early Admission Options

There are three primary categories of early admission programs. All typically require submitting an application in October or November. Each program provides an early decision, meaning you will receive an acceptance or rejection notification in December or January.

The specific details of these programs can vary among colleges, so it is advisable to consult with a counselor or teacher beforehand to ensure you clearly understand the respective rules. Here are some specific aspects of each option.

Early Decision Plans:

  • You can apply early decision to only 1 college.
  • If the college accepts you and offers enough financial aid, you must go to that college. That’s why these plans are referred to as “binding.”
  • Some colleges have 2 early deadlines, called early decision deadline I and the early decision deadline II. They both work the same way, but the second deadline gives you more time to decide to apply early.
  • Although you may apply to other colleges through the regular admission process, you must withdraw all other applications if this college accepts you.

3 Tips for Applying for Early Action

Now that you know the ins and outs of early action, follow these three tips to prepare for early action and create the most robust applications.

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#1: Decide If You’re Ready to Apply for Early Action

Early action pushes your college planning timeline earlier by a few months. When deciding whether or not to apply early, you should think about your readiness and the strength of your credentials at that point. Applying early action can give you a better shot at getting in, but only if you can create a strong application by the typical November 1 early action deadline. 

To give teachers writing your letters of rec plenty of time, you’ll need to ask for your letters of recommendation at least 3-4 weeks before the deadline. That means you should ask sometime in September.

Additionally, suppose you are applying early action and submitting SAT or ACT scores. In that case, you’ll only have one shot to take the test your senior year (in September for the ACT or October for the SAT, and that October test date is pushing it very close).

If you’re unhappy with your test scores going into your senior year, knowing you only have one more shot at getting your goal score can be nerve-wracking (although you can always change your application to a regular decision if you want another shot at the test). 

Our best advice? Make a list of everything you need to do for your applications and when each item needs to be completed, then plan out a schedule and see how feasible it seems to finish everything by the early action deadline.

#2: Know Your Schools’ Early Action Policies 

Once you have finalized your list of colleges to apply to, it is essential to explore the application options offered by each institution. Find out if they provide early action, early decision, or restricted early action.

If colleges offer the latter two options, consider whether you would like to apply through those routes. However, it is essential to thoroughly understand the application policies associated with applying early at each school.

If you decide to apply through early decision or restricted early action to a specific school, ensure that your desire to attend that institution is strong enough to justify potentially forfeiting the opportunity to apply early to other schools.

To determine which school is your top choice, conduct comprehensive research on the institution, its academic programs, and its overall culture and social environment. Utilize online resources and, if possible, visit the campus in person.

Engage with the admissions office to gather information and speak to current students about their experiences. Ensure that the school aligns with your preferences and values and that you have concrete and compelling reasons for wanting to spend the next four years of your education and life there.

Suppose you genuinely feel enthusiastic about attending a particular school. In that case, this motivation can drive you to promptly complete all the steps described earlier to create an impressive application before the early action deadline.

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#3: Have a Plan for Regular Decision Applications

It’s essential to remember that even if you apply to a school with a restricted early action policy, you are still free to apply to as many schools as you wish through regular decisions. However, in some cases, you may need to wait until after receiving a decision from a school with restricted early action before applying to other schools.

It is recommended to plan for the schools you intend to apply to through regular decisions. By doing so, you can allocate sufficient time and resources to complete those applications promptly.

While some students wait until after receiving their early action responses before starting their regular decision applications, this approach can be risky. Waiting leaves you only a few weeks to complete the regular decision applications before their deadlines.

Remember that gathering letters of recommendation and obtaining test scores can take time. To avoid unnecessary stress, you should begin working on your regular decision applications when you still have at least eight weeks before their deadlines. This way, you can complete the applications well in advance and ensure you have enough time to gather all the necessary materials.

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is early action binding?

Unlike early decision, early action isn’t a binding offer, meaning you can apply to multiple schools. You have the option to submit several applications under early action. Even with early action decisions, you don’t have to decide immediately. Usually, you have until May 1 to tell the school whether you plan to enroll, which allows you time to compare other colleges’ financial aid offers.

Can I apply again after early action?

No, not if the school outright rejects your application. You’d have to start the application over at a later time. But if the school still considers you a potential candidate, you’d be deemed a deferred candidate. You don’t have to reapply for early action if you’re deferred.

Can I apply for early decision to multiple schools?

Unlike early action, you cannot apply to multiple schools for early decision. When you send in your application, you must sign a contract that commits you to enroll at that college upon acceptance.

Do private institutions offer early action plans?

Yes, many private institutions offer early action.

What’s a deferred admission?

Applying early action has three possible outcomes: acceptance, denial, or deferred admission. The admissions office may defer your application if you’re not a candidate for early action. In that case, the admissions panel will reevaluate your application with the regular decision applicants. You don’t have to reapply to the school if you’re a deferred early action. The admissions office may review the application during the regular admission process.

Should I remain in contact with the admissions office?

Although you may want to wait to hear from the admissions office regarding their decision, stay connected with them. Consider sending an update letter to outline your recent accomplishments.

What should I do to prepare for admission after a denial?

Although receiving an early action denial can be disappointing, there’s a positive aspect. You’ll have extra time that you can use to your advantage. Take this time to position yourself for spring admission. You can learn from your early action experience and use this knowledge when you apply to other schools that pique your interest.


The number of early action applications you can submit depends on the specific policies of each college. While some colleges allow you to apply early action to multiple schools, others have more restrictive policies limiting the number of applications you can submit. It is crucial to thoroughly research and understand the application options and requirements of each institution you are considering.

Applying early can have advantages, such as receiving an admissions decision earlier and demonstrating enthusiasm for a particular school. However, it is essential to carefully consider your options and prioritize submitting strong applications rather than focusing solely on applying early. Remember that the quality and fit of your application materials with the school are paramount.

Ultimately, the decision to apply early action should be based on careful consideration of your college choices, your readiness to submit a robust application, and your understanding of each school’s policies. By planning and preparing, you can navigate the early admission process effectively and increase your chances of securing a college that aligns with your goals and aspirations.



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