Single Choice Early Action
Early Action Deadline: November 1.
You must send ALL application materials by this deadline for Early Action consideration. Please send us the Common Application or Universal College Application, the Harvard Supplement and the $75 application fee (or simple fee waiver request) as soon as you can and by October 15 if at all possible. This will allow us to create and begin processing your file.
Please note. The ED letter from the Common Application is NOT required for Harvard.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT EARLY ADMISSION:
Should Students Apply for Early Admission or Wait Until Regular Decision?
Early Action began at Harvard in the 1970s. Designed to provide
freedom and flexibility, Early Action gives students an early
indication of their chances for admission. Those admitted early
are free to apply to other colleges, compare financial aid offers
from other institutions, and need only make their final college
choice by May 1, the national Common Reply Date.
Initially, Early Action (and other early admission programs such
as Early Decision, which requires admitted students to enroll),
received little attention. Relatively small numbers of students
applied early, and the overwhelming majority of students waited
to apply Regular Decision.
Today, more students apply early to college. Students and their
parents are more sophisticated about the college admissions
process. They begin the college search earlier and with better
information than previous generations. College guidebooks, use
of the Internet, and media coverage of college admissions and
financial aid have increased markedly. In addition, colleges have
reached out as never before in their efforts to recruit talented
Concerns About Early Admission
Many have asked whether too many students are applying early.
They wonder if students are taking enough time and care to select
colleges that best match their academic interests, career goals, and
personal aspirations. Some have even used the word “hysteria" to
describe the peer pressure that induces some students to feel that
they must apply early “somewhere" —without considering which
colleges might be best for them. Some students have concluded
that it is imperative to apply early, whatever the circumstances, for
fear of being left behind.
In eliminating early admission for three years, we hoped (along
with a few other colleges that also suspended early admission)
to reduce the frenzy surrounding applying early to college. The
unforeseen economic turndown of recent years led students and
their families to unprecedented levels of concern about admission
to selective colleges—and to seek admission under early
programs. Such programs traditionally served a disproportionate
number of affluent students, but are now increasingly attractive
to families seeking financial aid. As a result, we have re-instituted
There is a good deal of confusion accompanying early admission
programs. More colleges offer early programs, and there is a
bewildering array of application options. Some colleges offer both
Early Decision and Early Action programs. Others offer two Early
Decision programs. And timing for these programs extends well
beyond the traditional November 1 deadline and mid-December
notification model. There is little wonder that students approach
the college admissions process with more uncertainty and anxiety,
particularly concerning early admission.
An Overview of Early Admission Programs
While our principal purpose is to discuss Early Action at Harvard,
a brief overview of Early Decision will help to focus on the two
programs' similarities and differences.
Early Decision is the early admission program offered by the
majority of national colleges and universities (but not Harvard).
Students must commit in advance to attend the Early Decision
college if admitted under its early program. Some Early Decision
colleges offer students a better chance of admission if they apply
early. Students admitted Early Decision who seek financial aid can
be released from their commitment to enroll if their financial aid
award vary significantly from their ability to pay.
Harvard College and a number of other institutions offer the
Early Action option on the same timetable as Early Decision:
a November 1 application deadline and a mid-December
notification. There is, however, a significant difference between
the programs: Early Action is non-binding, meaning that
admitted students are not obligated to enroll.
In contrast to some Early Decision colleges, Harvard does not
offer an advantage to students who apply early. Historically, higher
Early Action acceptance rates have reflected the remarkable
strength of Early Action applicant pools—not less rigorous
admissions standards. For any individual student, the final
decision will be the same whether the student applies early or
regular. There is no incentive whatsoever for Early Action colleges
to admit weaker candidates early and then have to reject stronger
Regular Decision candidates. Diminishing the quality of the
student body would be antithetical to the goals of the institution.
If Harvard had seen an institutional advantage in using Early
Action, it would not have eliminated the program for three years.
Two Key Features of Early Action
1. Flexibility in choosing colleges
A student admitted Early Action has until May 1, as do all
admitted students, to accept his or her place in the entering
class. Secure in the knowledge that they have one college option,
students admitted Early Action share all the advantages of
Regular Decision applicants. They can take the full senior year to
apply to as many colleges as they wish and take the time—visiting
campuses and gathering additional information—to make a
definitive college choice. This freedom to choose a college over
an extended period of time may account in part for Harvard's
graduation rate, which, at 98 percent, is among the nation's
2. Multiple financial aid options
Students admitted Early Action (and, of course, Regular Decision)
have the option to compare a variety of financial aid offers if they choose to apply to other colleges during their senior year.
Financial aid can be a decisive factor in choosing a college. In
order to advance the fundamental goal of admitting the best
students without regard to their financial circumstances, last year
Harvard awarded about $158 million in financial aid to meet
each family's demonstrated financial need. Nearly 70 percent of
Harvard students receive some form of financial aid and more
than 60 percent receive scholarship aid. All of Harvard's aid is
need-based. Students and families should feel comfortable with
their financial aid offer—long-term college satisfaction can
depend upon it.
Early Action Versus Regular Decision: Practical Advice on Choosing When to Apply to College
In the absence of any strategic advantage to applying under either
the Early Action or the Regular Decision program at Harvard,
students should consider these factors:
- For many good candidates, Regular Decision offers an important
practical advantage in the later application deadline (January
1), allowing more time to complete applications to Harvard
and other colleges. Teachers and guidance counselors
supporting the application will have more time to become
familiar with the student. Regular Decision is clearly preferable
for those whose candidacies will be strengthened by senior year
extracurricular achievements and improved academic
- For applicants whose records and accomplishments have been
consistently strong over time, Early Action may be an attractive
choice. Harvard's Early Action program allows admitted
students to apply to other colleges during their Regular Decision
programs and use the rest of the senior year until May 1, the
national Common Reply Date, to compare admission and
financial aid offers and make their final college choices.