What is Restrictive Early Action?

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As a student heading off to college or university, you want to secure your place in your dream degree or university. However, you’re not the only one looking for a secure position in this world. Colleges and universities alike want to start readying themselves for the academic year to come, so they have restrictive early action.

Now, keep in mind that this method is used not to stress you out but to start enrolling great students and securing positions in the college. That means that you’re under no obligation to follow through and choose that college. Still, you’ll only be able to apply to that specific college (at least early on).

This article will dive deep into all the different aspects of restrictive early action (REA) and what it entails. It’s generally an excellent option for students who have already decided on their top university choice. It only works for students who want to apply early to one college.

What Does Early Restrictive Action Mean?What Does Early Restrictive Action Mean?

Almost every college and the university has an early stage of applicants, somewhere around the very end of the year (October through December). While not all colleges have this program, as usually the top ones only do, it’s an excellent way for a student to get in and start prepping early for the years to come.

But what is restrictive early action? In more technical terms, it’s a non-binding agreement between you and a university. It also states that you cannot apply anywhere else in the early round of applications. That’s because, as the name entails, restrictive early action requires you to apply early.

Another term is coined, known as single-choice early action (SCEA). It’s interchangeable with REA, and the whole ordeal is somehow a statement on your part. It’s proof that you’re a committed person and you can make decisions and follow through on your plans.

So, is restrictive early action binding? No, it is not. While you need to sign an agreement with your university or college of choice, you don’t necessarily have to enroll in that place. Hence, you’ll get your admission or rejection letter early on. You’ll have the ability to apply to other schools after that.

However, even though the agreement is not definitive, YOU CAN NOT apply early to any other place if you decide to follow through with REA. Hence, it’s a tough decision to make, but one that can change the course of your academic career.

Who Should Apply for the Restrictive Early Action Program?

Who Should Apply for the Restrictive Early Action Program?

Restrictive early action truly is not for everyone. Whether you should apply through it or not depends on numerous different criteria. Because deadlines are earlier, portfolios must be completed before the usual deadline, and the decision is quite difficult to make.

The main problem with REA is sometimes it’s not worth it if you feel like your application is not strong enough. For instance, if your grades haven’t been ideal during your junior year, it might be more clever to wait it out, raise your scores, and then apply.

Here is how to know if you should apply for restrictive early action:

  • You have talked to your counselor and parents about it, and they both think it’s a good idea for you to follow through.
  • You have excellent grades throughout your last 2 years that show on your transcript.
  • You have made a concrete, sure decision about which college or university you want to apply to.
  • Your recommendation letter is optimal, and you’re proud of what you have on there.
  • You have several recommendation letters that make you stand out, preferably from current professors or advisors.
  • You have ample experience and not just academic-wise. We’re talking about extracurriculars, volunteer work, and some personal projects here and there.
  • Your ability to shine through and portray confidence.

Even if you don’t tick every box from the list above, you might want to apply for REA. You don’t have to be the shining kid in high school who always has their lives together. However, such a decision can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to study.

Another vital piece of information you should pay attention to is the deadlines. Every institute has a different deadline for REA, and sometimes they require numerous documents. Hence, you should check early on, preferably around September, so you know what documents to submit by the deadline.

We recommend making a list of all the colleges you have in mind or that one university you’ve always dreamt of attending. Then, list every requirement, document, and the steps they ask for. If you’re applying for REA, you already know how important planning and commitment are.

Keep in mind that not all institutes offer REA. However, here is a brief list of top restrictive early action schools:

  • Boston College
  • Georgetown University
  • Standford University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Yale University
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University

Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Restrictive Early Action: What's the Difference?

Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Restrictive Early Action: What’s the Difference?

It’s confusing. Trust us, we know. Early decision, restrictive, and early action are terms used here and there. Still, we sometimes get lost in what they actually entail. While they might throw you in a whirlwind every now and then, we break it down below to provide a more concrete idea of the definitions.

What is Early Action?

But what is early action (EA)? Just like restrictive early action, early action is a non-binding agreement. Have you noticed the difference in the wording? As opposed to REA, EA lacks the word “restrictive.” Other than that, both of them mean the same thing.

So, while EA is also non-binding, it allows you to apply to multiple colleges or universities simultaneously. That gives you the flexibility and the peace of mind, so you won’t have to stress about one specific college you want to attend. This is an excellent option for students who are confident about their portfolio and academic performance but aren’t sure which institute they wish to attend.

Most colleges and universities have both early action II and early action II. The difference is simply the deadline. EA I usually closes its admission portal around mid-December. However, EA II requires you to submit your complete application by January. Keep in mind that these dates will vary according to the place you’re applying to.

What is Early Decision?

Do you want to apply through an early decision? Well, once you do, there is no coming back. You’ll have to sign a form requiring you to attend that specific institute if you get accepted. The application deadline is usually around the middle of November, with the decision coming out around mid-December.

But, depending on the college, you are usually allowed to apply early to multiple organizations through Early Decision. Hence, you can apply early to other programs. However, once you get your acceptance letter from the college with ED, you’ll have to withdraw any other applications to other places.

You might be wondering why do some places do ED? Well, they want the best of the best, simply put. Hence, as most top-performers apply very early to those top universities, colleges compete within themselves to admit the excellent students out there.

ED might not be for you, especially if you’re not particular about where you want to be. However, if you’re confident about your decision, know where you want to go, and which program to apply to, this might be the path.

Learn everything you need to know about the difference between ED 1 and ED 2 here.

What is Restrictive Early Action?

So, restrictive early action vs. early decision, what’s the difference? We have already defined both terms above, but the main difference is the critical criteria. Restrictive early action requires you to APPLY to ONLY ONE place. Still, you won’t have to choose that institute, even if you get accepted.

On the other hand, if you’re applying through early action, the college requires you to ENROLL to ONLY ONE institute, which is theirs, if you get accepted. However, most allow you to also apply early to other places. But keep in mind, there is no going back if you get accepted into the university.

5 Pros and Cons of Applying via Restrictive Early Action

5 Pros and Cons of Applying via Restrictive Early Action

The pros and cons of applying through REA vary. We have found out that it all depends on your achievement and personality. Hence, it all depends on your confidence, whether you’re capable of following through, and how good your academic results are.

Pros of REA

  1. Acceptance rates are generally higher. However, keep in mind that the reason behind it is that top-achieving students and recruited athletes are the ones who often get admitted. Hence, if you find yourself in that category, you might just find your ticket to your dream college.
  2. You won’t have to compete with students submitting through regular decisions. Hence, you might just increase your admission chances.
  3. If you do get accepted, it’s a weight off your shoulders. Hence, you can start preparing early for college and worry less about your future. You won’t only save time, but you’ll also save money since you can only apply to one college through REA.
  4. You’ll shine through in the pool of applicants. That’s because only the best of the best apply through REA, and universities find that admirable.
  5. Even if you get rejected, it gives you a chance to measure how strong your application is. Hence, you can make the necessary tweaks when applying through regular decisions.

Cons of REA

  1. You must build a strong portfolio, recommendation letters, personal statements, and a collection of extracurriculars. Hence, it’s not an easy fete, and you’ll have to spend a lot of time perfecting your documentation.
  2. It is pretty time-consuming and draining. Since you’ll have to apply early on, that often means you’ll be consumed during the beginning of your senior year.
  3. The anxiety with the early deadline can seep out the energy from you. Hence, if you’re unsure about your decision, it might cause unnecessary stress.
  4. You can only apply to one school, which is too restrictive for some students.
  5. The competition is incredible. You’ll be in the same pool with the top students, possibly from worldwide. Hence, while you can still get accepted, it’s often difficult to get in if you’re a regular student.

11 Important Things to Know About Restrictive Early Action

11 Important Things to Know About Restrictive Early Action

There are numerous essential aspects of REA to keep in mind. Here is our shortlist that will help you decide on whether you want to take this route or not:

  1. Restrictive early action is offered only by a select number of schools in the USA.
  2. Most, if not all, REA schools supply a full scholarship, or a hefty amount of financial aid, to anyone who does get accepted.
  3. You can only apply to that specific university if you go with the REA route. However, that excludes any public universities or international ones.
  4. You will be allowed to apply to other universities through regular decisions. Still, you can’t apply to other schools early on.
  5. REA is a non-binding agreement, but it is restrictive. That means you can still apply to other universities later in the admission calendar. You usually have till the 1st of May to make a decision.
  6. You can use Naviance to measure your chances of getting accepted into an REA school.
  7. Schools find it quite impressive when students submit their applications through REA.
  8. The strongest candidates will be competing against you in the early round of applications.
  9. You will not be stuck with that particular school, even if you get accepted.
  10. The application deadline and the decision deadline will vary from one institute to the other.
  11. Acceptance rates for early action and decisions are usually higher than regular ones. For instance, in one particular academic year, Yale accepted 14.7% of early applicants compared to 4.7% of regular ones.

Wrapping Things Up: What is Restrictive Early Action?

If you’re assured of where you want to go next year, then restrictive early action might just be the path for you. But you must be as close to 100% of certainty to be confident enough about your decision. Hence, it isn’t a simple one to take, and numerous students struggle with it.

However, it all depends on a few aspects. Are your academics outstanding? Do you have some extracurriculars? Do you believe your application has the potential to stand out amidst the strongest ones out there?

No matter which decision you make, it’s always important to figure out the method you will use to pay for your tuition. As numerous restrictive early action schools offer scholarships or financial aids, it’s pretty appealing, isn’t it? That’s why we recommend you weigh all your pros and cons, and then go ahead and make your decision!

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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