Stanford Early Action: Should You Do It?

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It might not be considered an Ivy League institution, but Stanford University has a lot to offer prospective students including early action.

Founded in 1885, this school is a shining example of what higher education should be, offering programs that are entrepreneurial in nature and nothing short of spectacular.

Stanford accepts applications through both the Coalition Application and the Common Application.

Although the university gives no preference to either type of application, there is a significant advantage to students who choose to apply to Stanford via the Restrictive Early Action program.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is Early Action?

Early Action is an early application option that is perfect for students who have identified a university as their first choice school.

It is ideal for candidates who have excelled while completing a challenging curriculum and have enough time before November 1 to compile a thoughtful, compelling application.

Early Action isn’t for everyone, but students with strong applications who are set in their decision may benefit from this type of admissions program.

  • This type of application is considered a non-binding application, meaning that students admitted via Early Action are not obligated to attend the university if they are accepted.

In other words, Early Action indicates that you are interested in a school, and the categorization simply helps you narrow down your choices earlier on in the year. Many schools allow candidates to apply Early Action to multiple institutions.

Stanford, however, is not one of these schools. Applicants who do not wish to apply to Stanford through the Regular Decision process are encouraged instead to apply as Restrictive Early Action.

What Is Restrictive Early Action? Is it the Same as Single-Choice Early Action?

Restrictive Early Action, otherwise known as Single-Choice Early Action, differs from regular Early Action in that students who apply Restrictive Early Action to a school may not apply to any other private schools in the early rounds.

You can apply to public universities, but it cannot be for an early binding decision.

Stanford Early Action: Should You Do It?

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If you choose to apply to Stanford via Restrictive Early Action, rest assured that you are not obligated to attend if you are accepted.

  • However, applying Restrictive Early Action could theoretically increase your chances of acceptance, as it will indicate that Stanford is your number one choice.

It’s important to note that there isn’t slam-duck evidence that shows Early Action gives students a better chance of getting in. But, if you know a school is your clear-cut favorite, then apply early.

The date that you must notify Stanford of your decision to register is still May 1, as it is with Early Action at other institutions.

What Other Schools Use Restrictive Early Action?

Stanford isn’t the only school that has a Restrictive Early Action policy. Other schools with this option include:

  • Princeton University
  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Georgetown University
  • Boston College

What Does Stanford Have to Say About its Restrictive Early Action Program?

Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action program is a great option for students who know that Stanford is the right school for them.

Although the admissions department evaluates applicants in the same way, there are several considerations that might make Restrictive Early Action the right choice for you.

The Stanford Admissions Department writes that Restrictive Early Action is a good choice for you if:

  • “You have identified Stanford as your first choice;
  • You have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well; and
  • You have enough time before the November 1 deadline to write a thoughtful application.”

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How Many Students Apply to Stanford REA?

Stanford University does not plan to release hard statistics on how many students applied Restrictive Early Action for 2023.

However, for the Class of 2022, only 750 students were admitted under this program.

It is unclear how many students applied, but in past years, such as for the Class of 2020, more than 7,822 applications were submitted in this manner.

How Many Students Apply to Stanford RD?

Stanford no longer releases information about how many students applied Regular Decision versus Restrictive Early Action.

However, with 47,451 total applicants, it’s estimated that the vast majority of this applied for Regular Decision admission.

How Many Students Apply to Stanford Overall? How Has That Number Trended Over Time?

For the Class of 2022, 47,451 students applied to Stanford University overall, with that total including both Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision applicants.

Do More Students from Stanford Restrictive Early Action Get in Than Regular Decision?

The short answer to this question is yes.

As is true with many other colleges, Stanford admits a larger percentage of applicants from their pool of early-decision applicants that they do from their pool of regular-decision applicants.

  • While Stanford admits about 25% of its class from the Restrictive Early Action pool, this is much smaller than the percentage at other schools, which is usually about 40%.

Again, Stanford admits more students from the Restrictive Early Action pool as a percentage, but not as a whole. Since the pool is smaller to begin with, the number of students admitted is also smaller.

Also, students with special cases, such as athletes, might go in the REA pool. This also raises the overall acceptance rate for Stanford REA.

What Are Other Benefits of Applying to Stanford via REA?

One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting into Stanford is applying Restrictive Early Action. This option provides applicants with the ability to submit their application early without actually having to attend if admitted.

Without a doubt, one of the most obvious benefits of applying to Stanford Restrictive Early Action is that there are simply more open seats.

  • You are, in essence, beating everybody else to the punch. Since the Restrictive Early Action pool is smaller, and since the pool opens for applications earlier in the year, you will be competing against a smaller body of students.

Although Stanford says that no special preference is given to students who apply Restrictive Early Action, the fact of the matter is that with fewer applications for you to contend with, your odds of enrollment are higher.

Applying to Stanford via the Restrictive Early Action process is a great way of indicating your interest in the school and of increasing your likelihood of acceptance.

  • Remember that if you apply Restrictive Early Action at Stanford and are denied, you may not reapply in Regular Decision. Also, you can have your application deferred to Regular Decision, which means you will receive a decision by April 1.

One of the biggest benefits of applying through Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action process is that you will hear back from admissions sooner. This will allow you to relax and/or explore other college options in case you do not get in.

What Are the Drawbacks of Applying to Stanford via Restrictive Early Action?

Restrictive Early Action at Stanford is the best option if you have excellent grades and know that Stanford is your number one choice. You also need to allow yourself plenty of time to work on the application.

However, there are some situations in which applying to Stanford Restrictive Early Action is not the best choice.

For example, if you find your grades were not as good as they could have been in your earlier high school days, but are on an upward trend, then Regular Decision might be a better option.

  • Restrictive Early Action doesn’t let the admissions committee see your full potential, as you will be submitting grades earlier in the year. This is especially true if the courses you are taking in your senior year are much more rigorous than those you attempted earlier.
  • The same rule applies if you are planning on taking any new or additional standardized tests, or if you are working on a significant project that you want the admissions committee to be privy to.

If you apply by the November 1 Restrictive Early Action deadline, that’s it, that’s all they are going to see.

If you are applying to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action, you cannot apply to any other school under their Early Action, Early Decision, Early Notification, or Restrictive Early action plans.

  • You can apply in a Regular Decision plan, but not any of the earlier methods.
  • The exception to this is if you are deferred under Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action process, that is, if another college has an Early Decision II plan, you may apply that way.

The biggest disadvantage to applying through Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action process is that you need to start working on your application much sooner.

Well, Should You Apply Stanford REA?

The number of applications that are submitted on an annual basis to Stanford has more than doubled since 2008. Yet the number of open seats has remained the same.

  • Therefore, if you are 100% (or even 80 or 90%) committed to the idea of going to Stanford, you should consider applying Restrictive Early Action.
  • The psychological benefits of getting your application done and submitted early – as well as potentially being admitted early – far outweigh the disadvantages.

However, if there are other schools you are seriously considering, you might want to pause for a moment. While Stanford’s admissions process does not prevent you from applying to other schools, the problem lies in whether other schools’ admissions policies prevent you from applying Restrictive Early Action to Stanford.

  • For instance, if you plan on applying Early Decision to another university, you may get yourself into some hot water by also applying Restrictive Early Action to Stanford.
  • Early Decision is a binding application, so if you apply early and are accepted, you must accept. While some schools might let you apply early to other schools (such as Stanford) many do not.

Therefore, if you have other schools that you are considering applying Early Decision to, you might want to reconsider applying to Stanford Restrictive Early Action.

When Should You Start Your Stanford Restrictive Early Action Application?

The biggest benefit of applying to Stanford Restrictive Early Action is that the application will be due much sooner than other college applications.

Since it’s so early, you can really focus your efforts on producing a coherent, articulate application that showcases your talents and strengths. Here are few tips in applying early:

  • Start your Common Application in the spring of your junior year.
  • Don’t wait until the summer to begin your application, as it will be difficult to get a hold of the people you need to help you complete your application and submit supplementary materials (such as testing agencies and high school counselors).
  • Gather all of your recommendations and supplemental materials before you leave school for summer break.

The only exception is with essay writing. Begin your supplemental essays in mid-August. Don’t start them sooner than that, as the Common Application will not be updated until the end of summer. Feel free to start brainstorming, though!

Conclusion: Stanford Early Action

The final verdict? If you’re 100% set on Stanford, you should definitely apply Restrictive Early Action. After all, you have nothing to lose.

You will, however, have to sacrifice a few of those summer hours you’d normally spend working on your tan to put your essays together.

Trust us, though, getting into Stanford will be well worth the sacrifice!

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