The US University system has some of the best, and most selective, schools in the world. With 58 out of 100 of the best schools in the world, competition for spots at universities in the US is fierce. To get accepted, students should consider an application strategy that maximises their chance of securing an offer.

US Universities have a variety of admissions pathways for students to choose. Each option has advantages and limitations. A-List’s expert university advising team has outlined the options and provided recommendations for students as they make this important decision.

Early Decision 1 and 2

These legally binding admissions pathways will give students a strategic advantage. If a school is offering these options, it is because they want students to apply early. The Early Decision 1 application is often due between November 1st and November 15th. The Early Decision 2 application is often due January 1st at the same time students can submit their Regular Decision applications. In particular, the following schools weigh Early Decision applications heavily in their admissions process:

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Columbia University
  • Tufts
  • Dartmouth
  • Cornell
  • NYU
  • Duke
  • University of Chicago
Early Action

This application pathway is not legally binding but does allow you to signal interest in a school! Many public universities have this option. Because this application pathway is not legally binding, it does not provide the same strategic advantage. However, it can be worthwhile. Especially if you are applying to a school ED 1 and you would like to submit another early application. Selective US unis with an Early Action pathway:

  • University of Virginia
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Chicago
  • Georgetown
  • Villanova
  • Northeastern
Single Choice Early Action

Only a few schools offer this admissions pathway. In fact, only some of the most selective schools in the world offer this option. This admissions pathway isn’t legally binding, but it does limit your options. If a school offers this option, it means they are not concerned about yield. Also, it means they will not give significant weight to an early application. This application is best used for athletes and legacies. This deadline is often the same as the Early Decision deadlines in early November.

  • Stanford
  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Georgetown
  • Princeton
Regular Decision

This is the most common application pathway. Even if you are preparing Early Decision and Early Action applications, you still need to prepare Regular Decision applications. The majority of applicants are still admitted this way! The deadline often falls on January 1st or as late as Feb 2nd. We recommend you submit these applications before the winter holidays.

Aiming to attend a selective university in the US requires making strategic decisions. Attempting to have all the options by only applying regular decision often leads to disappointment and, perhaps, forfeiting an offering at a selective US Uni.

Working with an advisor to develop an application strategy is the best way to secure an offer from a selective university in the US If you would like to learn more about this process, consider scheduling a private consultation with one of our US university advisors.

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Early Application Strategy and Selective US Unis
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