Explain the logic of a school Restricting their Early Action

I’ve heard several flimflamsical explanations for this. But at the end of the day it seems like the REA schools are basically saying, “Look, we pretty much know that if we accept you, you’ll come here, but we’ll make it non-binding to make it seem like it’s more flexible to you” even though it’s not really bc you cannot apply Early anywhere else (yes I know about the public school carve out).

I’m not sure if I’d rather they all just became ED, or EA. But something about REA feels off to me. Having their cake and eating it. What’s the uncynical way of thinking about REA from the perspective of an applicant?

REA allows students who need to compare financial offers between schools the opportunity to get an early acceptance that is non-binding.


To what end? If that’s truly the goal, then why not give the applicant the opportunity to have two (or more…) non-binding offers in hand?

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They want to see it as a first choice signal by applicants, but do not want to deter applicants who need to compare FA offers.


I agree. They should be EA. Or ED and just state that if you get in you are coming.

If their yield is that high, they’re going to win anyway so why not let you have a fair look and still win organically. That said you still can apply EA to publics.

In the end, their school, their rules. You either play by their rules or…you don’t. Unfortunately the debate won’t move the needle.


So, having cake and eating it.

ETA: most of the REA schools have extraordinarily generous FA programs (increasingly so too) which makes the idea that these applicants need to compare packages seem at least somewhat dubious.

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Agreed and understood. Was just trying to see if I had missed a non-cynical rationale. Seems I have not.

They can do that. No one is going to stop applying because a school offers REA. Their yield is extremely high and if someone doesn’t like it, these schools don’t care. The super elites are competitive amongst themselves too, remember. In addition to the financial aspect, which is the main benefit, it also makes them seem a little more fair in the search for desirable students (hooked, institutional needs, etc…) who can’t risk applying ED. It makes these colleges even more desirable: “see how generous we are, letting you compare financial offers/not forcing you to commit/letting you weigh various options, etc…”

They all want to find little ways to stand out. REA is a fairly recent change and it doesn’t seem to have hurt them in the slightest.

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Not all applicants needing financial aid feel comfortable applying ED at all, especially if there are uncertainties like small business, self employment, rental, etc. income or divorced parents of uncertain cooperativeness or where a waiver is applied for.

Were you expecting to find a non-cynical rationale for any private college’s application methods (EA, REA, ED, ED2, RD, rolling)?


So you would be less cynical of the REA schools if they were more restrictive and binding?

They are giving applicants an early answer in exchange for little more than an early application submission and a commitment not to seek a similar early answer from a select group of peer schools. Seems fair.

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Yes, this. ED is a little too desperate and commercial for the most desirable schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. These four know they will be chosen over other schools, except maybe each other. The elite ED schools are less sure.

Practically, offering EA over SCEA would probably result in 3-4x the early reviews because top students would just apply EA to all of these schools along with MIT. Admissions would face more work for no real benefit and possibly lower yield. At least SCEA signals which private university is the student’s #1 choice.

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Well…count me as a parent who would not allow a binding ED application because so much can change between application time and May 1. We would have allowed REA but none of our kids’ schools even offered it. Both applied regular EA and that was good too. One attended a school accepted to EA and the other did not.

ETA…perhaps we would have considered ED IF it could have been a tipping point for THE top college choice.

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So far you’ve all confirmed my thinking. Thanks.

My oldest applied REA to one of her schools. ED was off the table because I was concerned about financial packages. I could not fathom making a binding commitment to any school before finding out for sure if the funding would work, particularly because I hoped that she would not have to borrow and I knew that I could not. While I would have loved it if she had been able to apply EA to more colleges, my guess is that the REA/SCEA rules are a yield protection thing to prevent students from applying early to every single super selective school and then turning down 4 out of 5 of them. You can only go to one college at a time.

That said, applying REA did feel like a huge risk becuase if she had been turned down at the REA school, we would have been waiting three more months to hear from other meets-needs colleges. It all worked out though. And it was still to our benefit because once she had gotten the REA acceptance (and financial aid offer), she was able to narrow her list down to three other places that she really liked .

I guess that is having their cake and eating it too for the REA universities, but so is Early Decision for universities that don’t offer EA at all, I think. And frankly because it worked out for my daughter, it felt like she had her cake and ate it too. By mid-December, she already had an affordable offer from the REA university. She had already written the supplemental essays for the other schools in October so it was really just a matter of officially sending the application off to her top 3 for RD. Thus, she was fortunate enough to only have to apply to reaches that she loved; no need to send the apps to likelies and targets. A big risk and a nail-baiting six weeks, but worth it for her in the end. Besides none of her other top schools (all small liberal arts colleges) even offered EA --so it is not like she was shut out from applying to them. Her only choice for an early answer from those schools was to apply ED and as I said, I would not let her do that. It was always going to be RD to those schools anyway.


BTW I’ve specifically asked AOs at two ED schools and both have said that you can back out if you do not accept their FA package, unless it’s a full ride.

At least with ED you can apply to as many EA’s as you want, public or private. The SCEA’s are actually more restrictive in that regard than the ED schools.

Legally no one can hold you. But you could be shamed etc., your hs could be blocked from future submissions, etc if the school gets downright nasty.

I think what you’re saying is they’ll let you back out if a school’s package doesn’t meet your need.

But if their pkg is similar to the NPC that shouldn’t be an issue. I think it’s NYU that allows a clean, easy back out and a few others will say that they will give you a pre read b4 u apply.

If you’re trying to justify an ED without following the rules of ED, then don’t. It’s not for you.

Yea, it will make it harder to get into some schools but many of us still don’t allow our kids to do so.

If you can afford any school but don’t want to - ie you don’t want to pay full sticker…then just don’t. Lots of great schools out there and one will be right for your child.

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That is actually having your cake and eating it to. Going into it with that mindset is not just dishonest but unfair to the candidates that plan on following the spirit of the arrangement. Someone will get rejected at the expense of your admission that you aren’t committed to uphold.

You are expressing cynicism towards the motivations underlying the schools well defined rules while suggesting behavior worthy of cynicism as it is intended to deliberately enter into the process with an intent to break those rules.


Note remotely trying to do this.

Btw your other comment that " if their pkg is similar to the NPC that shouldn’t be an issue" is sort of my point about REA. The REA schools are in a never ending arms race to give more FA to more students, raise the AGI thresholds which eliminate tuition entirely, etc., now so more than ever. The need to “shop” FA offers from these schools is, I believe, sort of a fake benefit if not moot because they should all be “a lot” and “meaningfully similar” most of the time for anyone with demonstrated need.

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I never stated nor implied that I was going into it with that sort of mindset. I was responding to the prior poster and others commenting that they wouldn’t/couldn’t let their kids apply ED because of the uncertainty surrounding FA.