Early Applications To United States Universities - Atlas Academy

Early Applications To United States Universities

University Applications
Discover the advantages, types, and strategies for early applications to US universities and enhance your chances of college admission success!


By Jonas Kavaliauskas

Published 2023 06 06

Greetings, ambitious students and dedicated parents! Are you eager to secure a spot at your dream college in the United States? Applying early can be the key to unlocking the door to your desired university. But what are the different types of early applications, and how can they improve your chances of admission? In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of early applications, explore their advantages, and provide expert strategies to help you stand out. Let’s jump-start your journey to college success!

The Benefits of Early Applications

Submitting an early application can offer several advantages:

  • Higher Acceptance Rates: Early applicants often face less competition and benefit from higher acceptance rates compared to regular decision applicants. Below is a table demonstrating the gap in early and regular acceptance rates for some of the top colleges for the Class of 2027 (students applying in 2022-2023). It is also important to note that, while the number of applicants figures for Regular Decision (RD) aren’t displayed, for most universities there is a big gap between the number of early and regular applications. For example, Harvard received 9,553 applications in its early round, and 47,384 regular applications. These numbers are somewhat representative of the situation at most other institutions too.
  • Demonstrated Interest: Early applications signal to the university that it is your top choice, showcasing your commitment and enthusiasm, which will be noted even if you get deferred and are considered again during the RD application round.
  • Early Decision Notification: Early applicants typically receive their admission decisions earlier, reducing stress and uncertainty during the college application process.
  • More Time for Alternatives: If not accepted, early applicants have ample time to strategize and apply to other colleges during the regular decision timeline.
Types of Early Applications
  • Early Action (EA): EA allows students to apply early, typically by November, and receive an admission decision in December or January. EA is non-binding, meaning you’re not required to attend if accepted, allowing you to compare offers from other colleges before making a final decision.
  • Early Decision (ED): ED is a binding agreement, requiring students to commit to attending the college if accepted. Students can only apply ED to one institution and must withdraw other applications if accepted. ED applications are usually due by November, and decisions are announced in December.

It is important to note that many more schools offer ED as an option, while few have an EA application. This is because colleges also have to plan carefully, to make sure they fill their entire incoming class. This is why the very top colleges can afford to host EA applications, since admitted students are unlikely to explore other options and withdraw their application in favor for another institution. This includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and a few others.

We advise our students to prioritize EA over ED, since ED, while increasing one’s odds of acceptance in comparison to RD, carries with it several downsides, including the limiting of one’s choices and lesser room for negotiating financial aid – colleges are obliged to provide student’s with a package that would enable them to attend, but, since the candidate does not have the right to apply and receive competing offers from other institutions, this cannot be leveraged to push the package upwards.

Strategies for Early Applications

To maximize your chances of success with early applications, follow these expert strategies:

  • Research and Plan: Thoroughly research your top-choice colleges, ensuring they align with your academic and personal goals. Create a timeline for completing and submitting your early application materials.
  • Craft a Compelling Application: Focus on crafting a strong application, highlighting your unique qualities, experiences, and achievements. Write a memorable personal statement, showcasing your personality and aspirations.
  • Seek Recommendations Early: Request recommendation letters from teachers, mentors, or counselors well in advance, giving them ample time to provide thoughtful endorsements.
  • Prepare for Standardized Tests: Schedule your SAT, ACT, or other required standardized tests early enough to allow for retakes if necessary. Begin studying and practicing well in advance to achieve your target scores.
Some Important Points for Early Applications

Keep in mind that the recommendations you submit in early applications will likely be the same ones you bring to RD. Depending on your school, the same can be true for your grades and predicted grades. Carefully consider whether you’re likely to have a more robust application in these regards in November, or whether you’re likely to demonstrate an even stronger track record come January. If the latter is the case, skipping early applications might be an option. 

More importantly, please note that the numbers, early vs. regular acceptance percentages, don’t tell the full story! Most often, international applicants, no matter how strong, get deferred (asked to reapply during RD), rather than rejected or accepted, from the top colleges during the early application rounds. This is because, while universities more or less know the sort of candidate pool they’re likely to see in the United States, they face much more volatility when it comes to countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Austria and others – one given year they might get 50 top-notch candidates from a foreign country, and, in another, they might receive 20 mediocre ones. That’s why colleges want to wait and see – to compare the candidate against the talent pool from their country with full visibility during RD. Moreover, the candidate pool applying during early rounds is often very different from that applying during RD. While you certainly have way fewer applicants in the EA/ED rounds, they are usually the best candidates – students from elite private schools who’ve been groomed since 9th grade (or even earlier) to make it into the Ivy League and other such institutions. They already have the grades, extracurriculars, personal essays that they feel extremely confident about to put in an application a few months earlier than everyone else. Hence, you get a selection bias that should not be underestimated. RD is more forgiving in this regard.

In short, most of Atlas students were able to get into top universities in the United States during RD, and this also often gave them some room to push up their financial aid packages.


By understanding the advantages and types of early applications to US universities, you can enhance your chances of college admission success. With diligent research, strategic planning, and a compelling application, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on the exciting journey to your dream college. Carpe diem, future scholars!


Published by

Jonas Kavaliauskas

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