Skip to Main Content
by Mike Chen | August 02, 2007


Early Action

Last time, we talked about Early Decision, the most restrictive application process which allows an applicant to receive an admission during the beginning of the application season.  In exchange for this admission, an applicant is required to post a non-refundable deposit.  This committment is an expensive one and an applicant must carefully consider the pros and cons of applying under Early Decision.

Making a commitment...well sort of...

Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is less restrictive.  In many ways, applying under Early Action is like applying during the regular application cycle, albeit much earlier than the later rounds.  If you apply to a business school under Early Action, you are not required to accept the offer.  Like the regular admissions cycle, you are free to apply to any number of schools you wish.  You can even apply to a school under Early Action and then submit applications under Early Action to other schools.

Like the Early Decision process, if you are admitted to a school's program, to secure your spot in the class, you are required to pay a non-refundable deposit.  Similar to the deposit for Early Decision, the Early Action deposit will typically be several thousand U.S. dollars.

Although you are not required to accept an Early Action offer, you will still contend with a very early acceptance deadline.  For example, suppose you submit an application to a school with an Early Action deadline of September 30.  You then receive an admissions offer on October 31.  You might have only until November 30 or so to accept the offer.  This early deadline to accept could be well before you receive any decisions on first-round applications.

Therefore, Early Action is just that: it requires early action on your part both for applying and for accepting.

What happens if I don't get admitted?

Under Early Decision or Early Action admissions, if it decides not to admit you, a business school AdCom can take one of several actions (not all schools will do every one of these):

  • Reject you outright
  • Waitlist you
  • Defer your decision to the regular filing period

The admissions decisions for applications applying under either Early Decision or Early Action are similar to those applying during the regular filing period, except most AdComs don't create waitlists.  If you are truly border line, an AdCom will simply defer your application to the regular admissions cycle where you will be evaluated against that pool of candidates.

If an AdCom defers your decision to a later round, you should follow the school's specific procedures.  Some will allow you to submit additional materials such as essays or updated GMAT scores.  Others will specify that they do not want any other submissions because they want to evaluate you again on parity with applications submitted during the regular filing period.  If a school doesn't want additional material, please follow that instruction.  By sending more stuff when it isn't wanted, you will only annoy the AdCom.

Your Strategy

I personally dislike Early Decision and/or Early Action (henceforth referred to as EDEA).  I think they require applicants and business schools alike to make commitments sooner than they should.  Going to business school is a major life-changing event, and you should only apply to a school under EDEA if it will truly benefit you.

As an applicant, your primary advantage of applying under EDEA is to make the painful business school application process less painful.  To a lesser degree, another advantage is that EDEA acceptance rates are generally higher than those from the regular filing periods.  Do not be misled by this statistic, however.  The quality of the EDEA applicant pool is typically also much stronger as well.

I would only apply to a school under Early Decision if you truly believe that it is your number one choice.  Or, failing this, it should be a very close number two which meets both of the following:

  • You would be very happy to attend the school and have zero regrets about accepting the number two school's offer.
  • You believe the pain of applying to a bunch of other business schools is much greater than your perceived difference in experience between attending the number two school and the number one school.

As for Early Action, you could take more liberty, but I would still apply to only one school and definitely no more than two schools.  In addition, do not apply to one school under Early Decision and another under Early Action.  It is one thing to to renege on the acceptance of an Early Decision offer to accept a regular decision offer from another school.  It is another thing to submit one Early Decision and one Early Action application.

One final note: at the risk of sounding like a broken record, do not submit an application under EDEA unless it is your very best effort.  The small advantage of getting your application in early will be greatly overshadowed by the huge disadvantage you will need to overcome if you have mistakes in your application.


Filed Under: Education