Understanding Different Early Admission Options

If you are a student applying to college, effectively utilizing the early application process can improve your admission chances and might just be the difference in getting you into your dream school. In this article, we’ll break down the different types of early admission options and their respective acceptance rates across the country’s Ivy League and top colleges. 

Early Decision (ED)

  • Your application is binding, meaning you are committed to your ED choice
  • Typically November 1 or 15, with admissions decisions released by December 15

Early Decision 2 (ED2)

  • Offered by some colleges as a “second chance” for students who were not admitted/could not apply to their ED1 college 
  • Not offered by Ivy Leagues
  • Typically January 1 or 15, with admissions decisions released around the same time as RD
  • Generally less effective in boosting admission rates compared to ED1

Early Action (EA)

  • Your application is not binding, and you can have multiple EA schools
  • Some schools have “Restrictive Early Action (REA)” policies that restrict you from applying EA to other schools

How Do Admission Rates of Applying Early Compare to Regular Applicants?

Though the question of whether applying early decision/action influences admission rates has long been a subject of debate, data from a survey study conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reported on average a higher acceptance rate among ED/EA applicants compared to regular applicants (61% vs. 49%). 

Here’s how acceptance rates of early applicants compare to regular applicants across some of the top institutes that have publicly released applicant data for the class of 2026.

CollegeOptionsEarly Acceptance %Regular Acceptance %
Notre DameREA17.3%10%
Johns HopkinsED20.8%6.5%
Georgia TechEA1, EA239.3% (EA1); 11.6% (EA2)17%
VanderbiltED1, ED224% (ED1); 10.3% (ED2)4.7%
WellesleyED1, ED229% avg.13%
Carnegie MellonED1, ED219%11%
EmoryED1, ED232% (ED1); 12% (ED2)11%

It’s important to note that the average acceptance rates in general across top-tier colleges have been considerably decreasing in recent years, and so prior early admission rates should be taken with a grain of salt when gauging your acceptance chances.