College Admissions Trends:
The Past as Prologue – Part I

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: January 21, 2019

history - giammarco-boscaro-380907-unsplashLast August 13th, we posted a blog titled “Forget the Worm: The Early Bird Gets Admitted.” That’s why we’ve chosen our title here (“The Past as Prologue”), because what has already happened should dictate our current actions. Here’s the connection: In that blog, we detailed a long-term trend – what has been happening – favoring those who apply to colleges via Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) over those who apply Regular Decision (RD). That trend has continued, and because ED and EA benefits both colleges and students in unique ways, there’s every reason to believe that it will continue – at an increasing pace – for the foreseeable future.

In this post, we’ll focus on how ED and EA benefit students. To begin with,

  • Students who apply ED/EA are more likely to get admitted. As we reported in our Early Bird blog mentioned above, the College of Idaho, a private liberal arts college, admitted 97% of its EA applicants in 2009. While that’s a high EA-admit rate, there are many other schools at which EA students had a whopping advantage. A blog titled 10 Colleges Where Early Applicants Have an Edge on last November presented data showing that “At the 10 colleges where early applicants had the greatest advantage over regular applicants, the average early acceptance rate was around 84 percent compared with an average regular acceptance rate of around 33 percent.” That means that students applying EA to those school had, on average, an over 2.5 times greater chance of admission than did RD applicants. The clear leader is Trinity University, at which EA applicants were 5.41 times as likely to get admitted than were RD applicants. Here are data on all 10 of the schools:

School (state)

Percent of Early Applicants Admitted Early*

Percent of Regular Applicants Admitted

Increased Likelihood of Admission for EA Versus RD

Trinity University (TX)




Butler University (IN)




American University (DC)




University of Tulsa (OK)




University of Denver




University of Utah




University of Arkansas




College of the Holy Cross (MA)




Augustana College (IL)




St. Lawrence University (NY)




*Excludes early applicants who were deferred and then subsequently admitted

  • One reason for these statistics? Applying ED and EA demonstrates interest in the schools, especially ED, which actually commits the student to attend if accepted. According to the most recent National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) survey, 15.5% of colleges and universities report that demonstrated interest has considerable importance in their admissions decisions, another 21.4% report it as having moderate importance in their admissions decisions, and only 28.6% report is as having no influence. (Note: Logic says that the most highly selective colleges – those that almost all students would like to attend and, thus, turn away applicants by the tens of thousands – are likely to be heavily represented in the “no influence” group.) For all but those schools in the 28.6% group, an article posted on quoted J. Leon Washington, now the dean of admission at Villanova, as saying that one of the reasons ED/EA applicants are so favored is that, "It is really difficult to say 'no' to outstanding young men and women who say, 'I love you. I want to be there.'"
  • Students who get admitted via ED or EA get informed of the admission decision far sooner than do RD applicants, and that considerably reduces the stress of waiting for the decision.

Part II of our College Admissions: The Past as Prologue post will deal with how ED/EA benefits colleges; subsequent posts will discuss other important trends in college admissions, so stay tuned to this channel.

College Admissions Secrets Revealed

Topics: College Admission College Application College Counseling College Planning Early Decision Early Action


Like this post? Share it!

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Ready to move to the front of the class?

Let's discuss an educational plan that will get you or your student on a path to success.