What is the signficance of EA, ED, ED2, RD, REA, SCEA etc?

We are just getting into the flow of college admissions, and all these acronyms are so confusing.

I understand what the acronyms stand for, but there are so many different ways of applying that my little head simply can’t compute. And then it varies for each college.

Is there something online or on CC that describes the various types of applications and what they mean in terms of a particular college? I’ve read so many posts on CC about a specific college like “it’s better to apply ED2, rather than RD” etc, that there is obviously significance. But what I am asking is whether there is a table that lists out the various forms of applications for specific colleges and the pros and cons of pursuing that type of application.

It may be that there is no such thing and that we’ll just have to check for specific colleges. But the lazy person in me is looking for a “one-stop shop” to guide us.


I’ve been around here for a while, but not as long as some, and I don’t know of a single resource for the various application types. Every school and every applicant are different so what might be “better” in one circumstance may not be better for someone else.

I am also a bit confused about what you are asking but some things worth pointing out are:

  1. Not every school offers an EA option
  2. Some ED acceptance rates offer false optimism since a large number of students accepted that route are recruited athletes, legacy students, or some other preferred group and not an “average” student
  3. If you need the ability to compare financial aid offers, ED applications generally are not the way to go
  4. Some early application deadlines coincide with priority deadlines for competitive scholarships or honors programs

I guess the short answer is it depends :grin:


That is very, very helpful. I didn’t think there was such a thing that, for College X, a document set forth the various methods of application and what the positives and negatives are for each.

For me, “back in the day”, there was simply an ordinary application and then early decision for a few schools. I just haven’t gotten my head around all these new variants like EA and ED2 (and I think there are others to boot).

What you wrote is exactly the kind of guidance I was looking for. I guess will just have to research these one by one.


If you would like more in depth info, “The Truth About College Admission” by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark is a good book.


Some more points to add to the posts above:

  1. If a college offers both EA and ED (not many do - but some like UChicago do), the college might view an applicant applying EA as less committed to the college than one applying ED. If the EA applicant would otherwise qualify for acceptance they might get a deferral instead.

  2. Be aware of what percent of the freshman class is filled through EA/ED (although this information isn’t always published). Some schools like UMD College Park fill 90%+ from EA so if you apply RD you’re significantly narrowing your chances.

  3. There’s a variation to EA offered by some private colleges (mostly the elites): Restrictive Early Acceptance (REA) also known as Single Choice Early Action (SCEA). This is like EA in that it’s non-binding, but it restricts you from applying EA/ED to any other private college.

1 Like

In “for what it’s worth” advice category, the only way everything gelled for me was to sit down and make a flow chart/decision tree based on the schools kiddo was actually going to apply to. How the options play out is entirely dependent upon how one school’s options impact others, and which are your kid’s front runners.

Once you figure out the list of schools, and each school’s deadlines/options, then you can run different scenarios for whether you choose one or another for an early round. I found it helpful for determining how many apps kiddo would have to apply to if he applied to School X SCEA v just EA schools, and which ones would ever be an ED2 option, etc.

So the process for us was (1) nail down your safeties/matches/reaches, ignoring application method. (2) write down all of the options and deadlines for each school. (3) Test out what the application process looks like if you consider ED1 or REA for any schools. What are the deadlines, what options are foreclosed early, etc. (4) pick the option that keeps options open, and maximizes success (as you define it). For us that meant no ED1, but EAs. Then state school apps. Then an option for ED2 if EA didn’t go as we hoped. Then a patch of RD apps.


Don’t forget to note down the deadlines for scholarships if schools offer them as those could be different than actual deadlines for RD/ED2 etc. Also note down deadlines for FAFSA/CSS etc


Really good point. Vanderbilt is an example of a school whose scholarship deadlines don’t align well with app deadlines.

1 Like

My personal experience having gone through the rodeo with one kid already is that if a college offers ED (1 or 2) AND you know for a fact that it is (1) AFFORDABLE and (2) your kid’s first choice then go for it. Yield is definitely the highest.
Next best is EA. In fact, it is becoming more and more common for colleges to accept most of their students through EA. Here in NC, most competitive colleges end up getting the bulk of their students through those two mechanisms.

1 Like

It’s important to know that you have to read the fine print, as they don’t mean the same thing at every school. What one school calls REA is different than what is REA at a different school. Look at Princeton vs Notre Dame vs Georgetown, for example.

And while “better” does indeed vary according to individual circumstances, typically ED>ED2>EA>RD in terms of acceptance rates. ED/ED2 increases the chances because colleges care about yield (some care A LOT) but the numbers can be deceptive. When you adjust for interest groups the bump in acceptance rate may not be quite as large.


I have forgotten @mynameiswhatever — when does your kid graduate high school? When will they be applying to college?

I made a spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Found it very useful to be able to flip the views around and share with my D22. I also included scholarship deadlines. Many schools require you to apply and be accepted by a certain date to be eligible for certain scholarships. I also included info on dorms, food, what the surrounding area was like (city, small town, rural) and of course cost of attendance.

D22 applied EA to every school she could except one that was only ED or RD and she went with RD on that because it was a safety for her. (@1dadinNC, that school was UNC-Asheville, no EA there. I would guess they got tired of people applying EA but having UNCA as a backup/safety and declining the offer.) She got in everywhere so far (they were not highly selective) and has committed to her #1.

1 Like

Totally agree with this, so it is important to be realistic about how desirable the student is when thinking about what kind of bump ED/ED2 will actually provide. An unhooked average excellent student won’t have the same ED cache that another student who meets institutional goals will.


I am simply overwhelmed at the great advice all of you have given! Thanks so very much.

I will go through this thread in detail, but, as always the CC family comes through with flying colors!

1 Like
  1. Thanks to you and all for the absolutely brilliant and rapid advice. Not in a million years could I have figured any of this out on my own!

Maybe your child is really on the ball (or the school/counselor is), but my child’s idea of where she wanted to go and list of colleges really changed from spring of her junior year until now (mid-senior year). Even her desired major changed.

The more she talked to friends already in college, the more schools she visited, the more websites she visited and events she attended, the more her list morphed.

We did not do ED, both because she didn’t have a clear first-choice and because we also knew we wanted to compare merit aid offers. ED precludes that — it is take it or leave it.

She applied EA to half the schools on her list and that has been great (some of her schools didn’t offer EA or she was undecided about them until later in the process). First, she got those EA apps done before senior year activities got really busy. Second, she has received acceptances and merit offers and the chance to visit and learn more about half the schools on her list while waiting for RD decisions. It has helped her rank her choices.

Sometimes kids who need their senior year to bring up grades or enhance ECs are advised to not apply early, but that is a bit of a gray area as to how much advantage it provides.

Years back, our son knew exactly where he wanted to go from day one. He applied there and to one backup — both EA. He was accepted and thrilled to have it all taken care of by mid-December senior year … and then he ended up transferring his freshman year in college! :upside_down_face:

Anyway, we approached it entirely in terms of the advantages or disadvantages to our kid’s decision making process, and not in terms of whether applying one way or another gave us an admissions edge. I think we thought if our kid is only going to get in if he/she applies ED, then it wasn’t meant to be, and tried to find a school that would love our kid regardless of whether the app was reviewed in the ED, EA, or RD rounds. It was complicated enough for us without adding that layer of strategizing for multiple schools, and nobody in our family had their heart set on a particular highly selective school.


No doubt the same for D. I just wanted to make sure I understood what all these different types of applications mean, and it clearly varies by school.

I guess I will make one observation: all of this just complicates things for the kids and are designed to enhance the school. It just adds a layer of complexity that wasn’t there when I applied decades ago. I suppose it does give some benefits to the applicants, but these new-fangled inventions seem to benefit the colleges far more.

I love your post so so much. Allowing a kid those extra few months to evolve is priceless. Kiddo has such a better understanding of what he is looking for now than he did in October and will have an even better idea in April. 6 months is a pretty significant percentage of a 17 year old’s life - a lot changes.

To us, if time came at the cost of a marginally improved chance of admission at a reach, so be it. ED is alluring, but for our kid, not worth it. If a school doesn’t love him enough to admit him in the RD round, their loss. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.


I don’t know if it benefits the school or student more, but my kiddo was so ready to be done talking and thinking about college apps and listening to me talk about college apps that she jumped on the chance to do EA wherever she could and it has greatly relieved the pressure of senior year. Definite huge emotional benefit for us with that. It was rough in September and October, but once those EA apps were in in November and the first acceptances came rolling in it was a huge load off. I would highly encourage doing as many off your list as you can EA.

ED & ED2 were not on our radar. I think once my D22 fell in love with the school that is her #1 she would have gladly done ED, but I don’t know if she even knew if they had ED or not. She had just decided it was the place for her and we are on board with it, but I always like to have a little wiggle room and ED precludes wiggle room so it doesn’t really work for my mindset. I am 99.9% sure D22 will be attending her #1 (already accepted), but that 0.1% of my brain likes having the option to turn it down and make a different choice if something should come up.

RD is just such a long angsty wait. I am really glad to not have to wait on that.

My advice is make a spreadsheet (Google Sheets is pretty easy to use) that you can share with your kiddo. And really I am not a spreadsheet person, but it just made it easier to see the pros and cons and to reorder by different priorities (distance from home, desired major, cost of attendance, chance of admittance, median ACT and SAT scores, D22’s ranking, etc).

And try to go visit some schools! If you can visit a few in the spring (who knows with COVID??) that would be great. We live in a college town and she had been to several college visits before with friends and her older sibling, but when it got to be crunch time (aka senior year) then things changed a lot. D22 had some completely different thoughts about schools at the end of junior year and also over the summer, but when August of senior year rolled around and we were able to do a few more visits just for her things started to crystallize in a new way.

She begrudgingly looked at my spreadsheet and considered some of the suggested schools I had put there and then started to give one in-state private a closer look. We were able to schedule a visit and then boom lightning struck and she fell in love with it. On paper/website it looked mildly interesting, but when we visited she was sure that was the place.

Also, if she hasn’t had a chance to do a sleep away summer program at a college I highly recommend that too. We were able to squeeze that in for D22 in the lull between variants and it really helped her see what college could be like, too. She was supposed to do it in 2020, but it was canceled so I was grateful that the 2021 camp didn’t get canceled, too.


This is a useful resource that compares acceptance rates by school and by admissions type. Take it with a grain of salt and sanity check the data for accuracy, but it’s a useful data point in understanding the advantages different deadlines can give:

1 Like

Excellent. Caveats noted.

Thank you.