Early action, sometimes called a priority application, is a college admissions plan where you usually submit your application by November 1, November 15, or December 1. Your submission is a nonbinding application, where you will receive an application decision in January or February, but you will not need to decide if you will attend until May 1.
Some colleges also offer a second opportunity to apply early action, referred to as early action II, with later deadlines. Early action is one of the more popular ways to apply. You obtain early feedback about your application status, plus it gives you plenty of time to revisit these campuses.
Early action applications give students the security of an early acceptance without any commitment. There are many colleges which offer this plan, and if you can get your application completed at the beginning of the school year, it is strongly suggested that you apply to schools with early action.
If you're not a viable candidate (maybe you're below admission standards), you may be rejected or deferred to the regular decision pool and then you will be notified of a final decision in March or April.
Restrictive early action, sometimes called single choice early action, is similar to early action except that there are some restrictions placed on where else students may apply. Depending on the wording of each college's plan, students in some cases may not be able to apply to other early action schools and/or early decision schools.
You typically receive an admissions decision in December or January. These plans differ in the restrictions placed upon you, but they all have one thing in common: You do not have to commit to attend. You still have until May 1 to decide to enroll.
If you are accepted under this plan, you can accept their offer at that point or you can see where else you are accepted and then make a decision. As the policies and the schools participating in these programs can change yearly, check with each college directly for specific requirements.