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Articles / Admissions / Early Action for International Applicants?

April 27, 2020

Early Action for International Applicants?

Question: Are International Students eligible to apply for Early Actions in US colleges? And if they are, then is it beneficial to them in any case?

Up until last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the only university on The Dean's “radar screen" that did NOT allow international students to apply via Early Action. However, MIT has reversed that policy and now permits international applicants to apply via EA.


There may, however, be other colleges out there that I'm not aware of that don't let international candidates choose any Early option or that accept Early applications only from international students who aren't applying for financial aid. So, if you hope to be an “Early bird" yourself, do read Web sites carefully to make sure that there are no restrictions that apply to you.

Early Action (and, especially, Early Decision, where offered) can be VERY beneficial to international students. Although colleges don't set specific quotas for the number of candidates they admit from foreign countries, admission officials do like to promote diversity by accepting applicants from a range of different places and thus not too many from a single nation. Therefore, qualified international students who apply Early can take those spots from equally qualified students who wait until the Regular Decision round.

Early Decision—which, unlike Early “Action," requires a “binding" commitment–is an especially good idea for international applicants because the college folks know that an admitted ED student is almost a “sure-thing" and this can boost acceptance odds. (I say “almost" because an Early Decision candidate who is admitted but doesn't receive sufficient financial aid can decline the offer of admission without penalty.)

However, make sure that you heed the Early “rules." For instance, some colleges offer a “Single-Choice" Early Action option that puts limits on where else students can apply Early. Similarly, Early Decision candidates can also apply to Early Action colleges that permit concurrent ED/EA applications (and most do), but cannot aim for more than one ED college at a time.

As I said at the start, “The Dean" is not aware of any college or university that still prohibits Early applications from international candidates, but I'll post this on the College Confidential Web site with the hope that CC members will jump in to correct me, as needed!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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