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MIT student blogger Snively '11

Early Action versus Regular Action by Snively '11

Use this link when you get to the end of the post, you'll understand.

*Update as of 2015: Early action is available to both domestic and international students.


Each time we write a blog entry we have to pick a label for it. This label helps sort our entries into the different categories you see at the top of the site. I decided this afternoon that I wanted to write about Early Action and Regular Action (EA and RA) since we’d been getting a lot of questions lately. Lo and behold, while looking for a category, I noticed that one of my options was “Early Action Versus Regular Action” which happened to be the exact title of my post. Hm, go figure, I guess that’s the label I should pick. I’ve also tagged this as “Q&A” because I’d like to answer your questions. My goal is for this to be the one-stop-shop for all EA questions you may have, let’s see if I can do this.

What is “Early Action”?
According to this admissions site:

If you have taken all the required standardized tests on or by the November test date and postmark all of the application materials by November 1, you may ask that we review your application and notify you of admission by mid-December.

Can anybody apply EA?
Almost. Only domestic students can apply early. International students need to apply RA. The reasoning behind this is that the international applicant competition is so intense that it really is important to read all of those applications at the same time and compare them side by side.

Why would I apply early?
There are a lot of motivations people have for applying early. Some people do it because MIT is their number one choice college and they are really anxious to fill out the application, get it sent in, and find out if they made it in. Others feel that applying early is a great way to show the admissions office that you’re willing to take the extra effort to get everything done early and apply, thereby proving you want to go there more than anywhere else and they should let you in. Some apply early to help space out their applications, getting the MIT application done early so they can focus on other applications later.

Besides due dates, is there a difference between the EA application and the RA application?
No, the application for early action is exactly the same as the application for regular action. The application will be coming out near the end of July.

Is there an advantage to applying early?
No, not really. Other than the fact that if you are deferred you get a second chance, there isn’t an advantage to applying early. If anything it could hurt you because you’ve got a bunch of kids that likely have MIT as their first choice and all of them are probably quite brilliant. EA applicants are more self-selective, but you’ll never get in early if you don’t apply, so go for it!

So, this is “Early Decision,” right?
Wrong. Early Decision, different than Early Action, is not offered at MIT. Schools that have Early Decision programs require enrollment upon early acceptance. MIT, with its EA program, doesn’t require you to enroll if you are accepted. You have until May, just like all of the RA people, to decide whether you want to come or not. Again, there is no obligation to attend if you are accepted early, you just have more time to decide if you want to attend.

Can I apply to more than one school early?
It varies from school to school. Oftentimes you’ll only be able to apply to one school early decision so if you’re applying early decision somewhere it will be against their policy to apply to MIT early as well. However, several schools offering early action will allow you to apply to multiple schools. For example, you can apply to both CalTech and MIT under their EA programs with no problems.

Do I still have to pay the application fee?

What about financial aid? Does this affect it at all?
Nope. Your financial aid stuff is all figured out at the same time as everybody else, no worries.

What are the possible outcomes from EA?
You can either be accepted, deferred, or not admitted from EA. Accepted means that you officially have a spot at MIT if you want it and you have to choose whether to attend or not by May 1st. Not admitted means that, unfortunately, you won’t be attending MIT. You cannot reapply for RA after having been denied EA. Deferred means that your application is kept and re-reviewed for RA. The admissions office feels that you were a strong enough candidate to avoid non-admission so they throw you in the pool of RA applicants. During the RA round your application is treated exactly the same as the RA applicants, essentially giving you another chance at admission. Many people who are deferred choose to send in additional letters of recommendation (really, only send in one-ish, and make sure it contributes something NEW to your application, not same old same old), write letters to the admissions office keeping them updated with important updates in their lives (again, maybe only one-ish of these letters), and generally doing anything they can to get more comfortable with MIT. Don’t go and perform a tap-dance routine for admissions. While you’ll get polite applause, they’ll laugh at you once you leave. Seriously, they’re human, and you’ll look ridiculous, so don’t go insane otherwise you’ll get talked about over coffee.

Getting deferred is NOT a polite rejection. Many many many people are deferred and get in later, MIT can’t afford to accept everybody EA so they accept more RA. While only 30% of the final class may be accepted EA, more than 30% of the class is made up of EA applicants.

What happens if I get in early?
In a word, awesomeness. Results are published online so you could, if you’re like me, go online and check to see if you were admitted (then proceed to spend the day flipping out). If you’re the more self-controlled type you could wait for the the official letter in the mail.

I’m sorry, did I say letter? I meant TUBE!

EA admitted students (just EA, sorry RA, more incentive to apply early) get a tube in the mail that congratulates them on their acceptance. Inside the tube is the acceptance letter, the acceptance certificate, a poster, a coupon to The Coop, confetti, and other neat goodies. MIT is awesome and is one of the only (if not the only) colleges that gives early admitted students a tube instead of just a big envelope. Funnily enough, Newsweek just discovered this phenomenon and is frantically trying to get pictures of the tube for their Kaplan College Guide so EA admits everywhere are scrambling to get high res pictures of their tubes submitted. Keep on clicking everybody, they’re due tonight!

After you get your tube a bunch of new stuff appears on your myMIT account (go sign up for a myMIT account right now) including a very addicting guestbook that all of the admitted students get to sign. This helps you meet your future classmates before you’ve even hit campus. I spent way too many hours looking at this guestbook.

Over the coming months you will receive nice holiday cards and phone calls from MIT wishing you well and making you feel special. Plus, and this is a big plus, your college search is potentially over even before your other applications are due. Let me tell you, this is VERY nice.

Great, I’m convinced, when is everything due?
October 20 Last day to contact your interviewer and set up an interview
November 1 Last day to have an interview
November 1 Postmark deadline for Early Action application
November Last month to take standardized tests for Early Action application
Mid-December Early Action applicants notified of admission decision
February 15 Receipt deadline for all Financial Aid materials
April 1 All applicants notified of financial aid package
May 1 Postmark deadline for enrollment decision of accepted students (Early Action and Regular Action)

Snively, thank you so much for all of this useful information about early action. I will refer to it often and will thank whatever deity (or deities or lack thereof) I believe in everyday because you published this post. Is there anything I can do for you in return? Anything at all, baked goods, music, my firstborn child?
Tell you what, you keep the firstborn child. If you feel so inclined, I would gladly accept the following:
a) Any type of baked good
b) Techno music
c) A shoulder massage
d) A black Spider Spud
e) A rare, retired, mint-condition, Ben Jones autographed business card

I have more questions!
That’s ok, either ask in the comments or e-mail me at snively [at] mit [dot] edu and I’ll update this post with answers.

I like turtles
Alright, you’re a great. . . zombie.

43 responses to “Early Action versus Regular Action”

  1. Jeremy '12 says:

    Ahh, and the cycle begins anew. Good luck class of 2013!

    And a little comment on EA. If you apply EA, please at least have other applications ready to go. Then, if you get in, don’t send them. That way you still save the money (which is actually pretty substantial) if you get in, and you’re not screwed if you don’t.

    If you’re quick with apps, and you think you can get them all done by the Jan. 1st deadline of some of your other schools, all the power to you, but make sure you get your stuff to your guidance counselors before winter break, as some of them tend to get uber busy. Also be aware of the time it takes to send SAT scores.

    That’s enough playing mother I think. Sorry.

  2. Yukiko says:

    AH! SO that’s why I didn’t get a tube… only for early action students.. o well.. still happy smile

  3. notfirst says:

    Finally- practicality. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The tubes also make great piggy-banks if you cut a slit in the top.

  5. Cody Dean says:

    Awesome post! Best wishes to all those applying EA…

  6. Anonymous says:

    internationals deserve a tube too :( …

  7. Ann says:

    Thanks, Snively!

    Just out of curiosity, how many more male applicants apply EA than female?

  8. Tamara says:

    It scares me that you’re writing posts for the ’13s already…

    But yeah, EA tubes look awesome (actually, I’ve never seen one in person, but the posters are really cool). I feel left out as an international RD admit :(

  9. Karen says:

    The Ben Jones autographed business card was actually purchased by an eBay bot specializing in collectables.

    And MIT might still stalk you if you get in RA, so don’t worry if you don’t have your stuff together in time for the Nomember 1st deadline smile

  10. Omar '12 says:

    Snively – So I’m not good at baking…so I guess i’ll just give you a massage next year haha jk.

    Hmm…still sad about not receiving a tube :-( Anyway, its alright, at least i got DME! yay

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow, posting stuff for the class of 2013 when there are still 64 of us waiting for admission/rejection that MIT hasn’t even recognized existed for the past 3 weeks.

    Nothing against you Snively (I love reading your blogs), just that I’ve had my application in for almost 8 MONTHS and I just want to know where I am going in the fall. Think that if you talk to an admissions officer sometime in the near future you could have them put at least something up that shows we aren’t forgotten and maybe gives an idea of when we can hear back about the wait list? That’d be great.

  12. Lauren '12 says:

    Omar, DME………????? (Damned MIT Excited? Department of mechanical engineering……? Decision making exercise?? haha help me out here)

  13. susie 11 says:

    Hey Snively…one thing you said is arguably wrong. Your chances of getting in are actually significantly higher if you apply EA. You can crunch the numbers, go here…
    but i think the admit rate goes up to around 20%.

    That said, the applicant pool for EA is stronger. I still feel like EA is a leg, up though.

  14. Anonymous says:

    you forgot to mention that if you get in EA and MIT is your first choice, you don’t need to apply anywhere else ^_^. Though I can’t say that’s my experience, as I got in RD.

  15. Shannon says:

    @Lauren- DME is Discover Mechanical Engineering, one of the FPOPs (Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs). We heard back about which ones we got today.

    That being said, FUP ftw!

    Also, potential ’13s, if you love/have a slight middle-school-grade crush on MIT, apply early, because the possibility of a tube is SO WORTH IT.

  16. Piper says:

    It’s totally worth it just to keep the Tube for the rest of your life =D. If you get in, it’s like an early *insert choice of winter holiday here* present.

    And if you’re smart, you won’t do your other applications before you get results for your EA apps, and end up doing 2 apps instead of a bazillion. This means you 1) won’t do as much work, and 2) will save money!

    (Or you can be me and apply to 16 schools before getting EA results because you fear that you won’t be able to go on if rejected/deferred… oh the irony of my life.)

  17. Danny '12 says:

    lol I can’t believe I just clicked on this blog. Good luck 2013, good luck.

  18. Li'12 says:

    Applying EA is great because you can thoughtfully arrange recommendations (for all your apps, not just MIT) and whatnot before the huge rush of senior fall. So you can be all set while your classmates scramble for recs and bark at their teachers to get things done for them =P

    Also, being deferred isn’t a really bad thing (RA admission was made so much more exciting!) It really forced me to think about my options and do more research/school comparison, which is a valuable thing regardless of admission.

  19. Lainers says:

    I actually got that last thing about the Zombie and the Turtles. And , surprisingly, I did NOT know about it from the internet (someone revive Snively). I actually read about that interview incident in the Orange County Register, an actual newspaper, right after it was on TV and caused an immidiate online commotion. All this makes me feel very special.

  20. Ian '11 says:

    If MIT is your first choice and you are eligible to apply early (which I fortunately opted to do, having been accepted early despite the idea that I wouldn’t get into MIT at all), I would highly recommend doing so for the following reasons:

    1) You get your application done early in the year so you don’t have to worry about it any longer.

    2) If you aren’t admitted early, you are usually deferred and thus get another shot;

    and 3) You do not have to worry about competing against international students in addition to domestic students (though you’ll notice that the admit rate is still relatively low).

    Best of luck to all you interested seniors!

  21. Islam says:

    Hi, I’m writing from outside of US. Sorry for a lil’ bit offtopic, but should I apply for the finaid before or after the application?

  22. What did all you EA admits do with your tube once you got it? You didn’t throw it away, right?

  23. Snively says:

    @susie ’11
    When I crunched the numbers, I got 11.1% EA admit rate and 10% RA admit rate. That’s not really a huge increase in my book, not enough to say definitively that you have a better chance of getting in if you apply EA. Add in the self-selective nature of it and I’d say you’re about even-ish.

    @some anonymous
    I did mention the fact that you don’t need to apply to other schools if you got in, mostly because that’s what I did and it was VERY nice.

  24. Piper says:

    Heck no, I’m keeping mine. Right now, it’s gathering dust in my closet =D. After I got it, I took it to school to show the teachers who helped me =).

  25. Rada says:

    Thanks for the post!:)
    I have a question though.
    So only domestic kids can apply early, as you said.
    What if I’m a non-US citizen, but studied here in HS since my sophomore year? I still can’t do it, can I?

  26. Omar '12 says:

    @Lauren – yea Shannon (HI SHANNON!) beat me to the punch haha. I like the excited one though. I think I’m going to use that haha once the program starts.

    @Snively – what’s also interesting is that if you are deferred, you have a slightly higher admit rate RA than pure RAers. It’s 10.96%. I remember doing that calculation (and many others) in the three months I was freaking out about whether i would get in or not grin

  27. Chris B.'12 says:

    Straight up, my tube is right next to my desk. Sometimes i just look at it and pinch myself. Really, the tube is one of the most exciting things about getting into MIT smile

  28. @Susie

    I’d agree with Snively. 11.1% and 10% isn’t that big. Plus, don’t forget association does not mean causation.

    If people want to increase their admissions chances (I hate making college applications sound like a game or a contest), I’d recommend getting an interview. I think I read somewhere that difference between interview and non-interview is about 5%. Plus, interviews are a great way to learn more about MIT if you’re still wondering if you’ll fit in at MIT.

  29. Anderson '12 says:

    Yeah, I’d say any advantage (some of those EA non-admits getting deferred and admitted in RA) is offset by how self-selective the EA applicant pool is. I bet MIT tries to take the same caliber of applicant from both piles, so you’d get at most a modest boost from applying earlier.

  30. anonymous says:

    I value my admission & EA tube even more after reading about this boy who was admitted to 17 top colleges – but not, you guessed it – MIT! Here’s the article & video of the story on the Today Show –

    What do you think?

  31. Chris '12 says:

    tap dancing is crazy, then again, so is a video about yourself, and look how that turned out!

    looking for techno? I suggest DJ Tiesto, all his stuff is good, but i especially like Elements of Life

    sorry, I can’t bake.

  32. Matt Ferraro says:

    I was EA, and seriously it was awesome. absolutely mind-blowingly insanity causing hyperventilation awesomeness. don’t wait for RA

  33. Snively says:

    I think most people keep their tubes. Mine just had a photo shoot for Newsweek so it got all pretty-fied and posed for the camera.

    Click for tube pics

  34. Piper says:

    Ah, you submitted yours? I was gonna do that. But then laziness. Do you know which issue the article comes out in?

  35. Eric T. '12 says:

    I applied early action and got deferred. It’s true, I was denied the tube. However, I have to say that even though I was admitted RA, applying EA was completely worth it. It is a great experience to be able to sit down and just focus on MIT’s application instead of having to tackle it alongside many others. Also, having completed the app that meant the most to me first made the rest of my applications a lot easier and less stressful than they would have been.

  36. '13 Hopeful says:

    Shoulder massage? I give seriously good ones.

    (see, kids, almost eleven years playing piano gives you transferable skills!)

  37. Hafsa says:

    almost the same problem Rada has: i’m not a US citizen or a permanent resident, but i’m a temporary resident and i attended school here since last 3 months of 8th grade. I still can’t apply early and count as international student, right?

  38. Will '12 says:

    I also got deferred EA and then accepted RA. So, it happens smile I did indeed send in a few things after being deferred.

    I saw Tiesto last week at Bonnaroo. It was absolutely, positively EPIC :DD

  39. '14 hopeful says:

    lol I shouldn’t be here

  40. So is there *any* benefit to applying EA?

  41. So is there any itsybitsy tiny bit benefit to applying EA?

  42. Snively says:

    Yep, your ED school would almost definitely make you withdraw your application/acceptance to MIT. It’s part of the contract you sign.

  43. Brian says:

    So if I applied ED to my #2 school and EA to MIT (my #1) and was accepted to both, would i be out of luck with MIT?