10 Colleges Where Early Applicants Have the Advantage

Devon Haynie

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Applying early to college through a school's official program can have its drawbacks.

If accepted, students may have to commit to the school they applied to and forgo the chance to compare financial aid offers at different colleges. The process also requires extra motivation and organization skills to meet early deadlines.

But the additional hassle might just be worth it. High school seniors who apply to college early through an official program with fall deadlines can receive a significant admissions boost, according to an analysis of 245 ranked colleges that reported rates for their early admissions programs to U.S. News.

[Determine whether you should apply to college early.]

Early decision programs, offered by many colleges, require students to commit to attending a specific college, assuming they are accepted. Recently, a number of universities have also been offering early action programs -- an option that allows students to apply to a college early without making a binding decision to enroll.

Students who applied through either early decision or action plans for fall 2012 admission had a greater chance of being admitted than those who applied using the regular processes at 80 percent of the colleges that reported such statistics. Among those colleges, the average early acceptance rate was 20 percentage points higher than the average rate for those who sent applications in by the regular winter deadlines.

The 10 schools with the largest difference between their early and regular acceptance rates accepted an average of 89 percent of early applicants, compared with an average acceptance rate of 39 percent for students using the regular admissions process.

[Learn three ways to make your college application stand out.]

The University of Tulsa in Oklahoma had the biggest positive difference in acceptance rates, admitting 98 percent of early applicants and 31 percent of regular applicants.

Among some of the 245 schools, however, regular applicants had a distinct admissions advantage.

At New York's Molloy College, for example, only 40 percent of early applicants were admitted compared with 98 percent of regular applicants.

Below are the 10 colleges where early applicants had the greatest admissions advantage, listed by the difference between early and regular acceptance rates.

School name (state) Percent of early applicants admitted early* Percent of regular applicants admitted Difference in acceptance rates U.S. News rank and category
University of Tulsa (OK) 97.6% 31.4% 66.2% 86, National Universities
Wesleyan College (GA) 100% 40.3% 59.7% 161, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Loyola University Maryland 95.7% 43.5% 52.2% 5, Regional Universities (North)
Marist College (NY) 80.8% 30.3% 50.5% 10, Regional Universities (North)
Rhodes College (TN) 81.6% 32.9% 48.7% 54, National Liberal Arts Colleges
Butler University (IN) 83.9% 38.8% 45.1% 2, Regional Universities (Midwest)
SUNY Institute of Technology--Utica/Rome 80.6% 35.5% 45.0% 109, Regional Universities (North)
Case Western Reserve University (OH) 88.1% 45.4% 42.7% 37, National Universities
St. Lawrence University (NY) 87.0% 45.3% 41.7% 56, National Liberal Arts Colleges
SUNY--Fredonia 90.9% 51.2% 39.7% 60, Regional Universities (North)

*Combines early decision and early action programs at colleges that have both. Students should keep in mind that some colleges defer some early applicants to the regular pool, where they have an additional chance of admittance, so the percentage of early applicants who are eventually accepted may be higher.

Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were excluded from this list. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs, because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find schools with high early admissions rates, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The early admissions data above are correct as of Nov. 19, 2013.