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10 Elite Colleges Where Early Applicants Have a Leg Up

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The college admissions process and landscape can be incredibly confusing. There are a lot of moving parts! You have to consider your GPA, test scores (if you have them), personal statements, supplemental essays, scholarships, housing, majors, graduation rates… the list goes on! One of the most common questions our clients ask us is, “What’s the deal with early action/decision submissions?” Or, perhaps more specifically, “Do I have a better chance of gaining acceptance if I apply early?”

The answer is as nuanced as the holistic review process, but in short: yes, colleges tend to accept larger percentages of applicants from early action and early decision pools than regular decision pools. You can learn more about the difference between early action and early decision deadlines here. Applying early is a way for applicants to demonstrate heightened interest in their top-choice school(s), especially if they’re applying via early decision, which is a binding agreement (i.e. if you are accepted, you are expected to confirm attendance and withdraw all other pending applications immediately). 

We crunched the numbers based on official data for the Class of 2025, and here is a list of 10 Elite Colleges Where Early Applicants Have a Leg Up.

SchoolTypes of Early Application DeadlinesPercent of Early Applicants AcceptedPercent of Applicants Accepted OverallNumber of Early ApplicantsNumber of Early Applicants AcceptedNumber of Regular Decision ApplicantsNumber of Regular Decision Applicants AcceptedGrand Total Number of ApplicantsGrand Total Number of Applicants AcceptedIncreased Odds of Gaining Acceptance if Applying Early
Brown UniversityEarly Decision15.97%5.4%5,54088541,0281,65246,5682,537Almost 4 times more likely
DartmouthEarly Decision21.2%6.17%2,66459125,6931,15828,3571,749Almost 5 times more likely
Duke UniversityEarly Decision24%5.8%5,03684044,4811,17449,5172,0146 times more likely
HarvardRestrictive Early Action7%3.4%9,40674548,0291,22357,4351,9683 times more likely
MITEarly Action7.4%4%15,03671918,20462133,2401,3401.4 times more likely
Notre DameRestrictive Early Action21%14.6%7,7441,67315,8931,77323,6373,446Almost 2 times more likely
RiceEarly Decision23%9%2,63547826,9092,32429,5442,8022 times more likely
University of PennsylvaniaEarly Decision15%2.5%7,9611,18348,3712,12156,3323,3043 times more likely
VanderbiltEarly Decision, Early Decision II24%6.7%5,04991442,1252,24847,1743,1623 times more likely
YaleRestrictive Early Action10.5%4.6%7,93983738,96695246,9051,7894 times more likely


Duke Today (2020)
The Chronicle (2021)
Harvard Magazine (2021)
Harvard Magazine (2021)
The Harvard Gazette (2021)
Princeton University (2021)
YaleNews (2021)
Yale University (2021)
Dartmouth University (2020)
The Dartmouth (2021)
Dartmouth University (2021)
Brown University (2021)
Brown University (2021)
Penn Admissions (2021)
The Tech (2021)
Vanderbilt Hustler (2021)
BC News (2021)
Rice University Office of Admission (2021)
The Observer (2021)
The Observer (2021)
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