Regular Decision and Restrictive Early Action
Stanford offers two decision plans for first-year applicants:
- Regular Decision; and
- Restrictive Early Action
While we evaluate applications in the same way whether you apply early or regular, there are considerations that may make one option more applicable to you than the other.
Regular Decision (RD) is Stanford's traditional decision plan. Most students, including a majority of admitted students, apply to Stanford during this round.
You may want to consider Regular Decision if any of the following applies:
- Your grades are on an upward trend;
- You are taking classes in your senior year that are significantly more rigorous than in grades 10 and 11;
- You are taking (or retaking) standardized exams;
- You are working on a significant project or activity in the fall of your final year in high school.
Restrictive Early Action
Restrictive Early Action (REA) is Stanford’s non-binding early application option.
Restrictive Early Action may be a good option for you if all of the following apply:
- You have identified Stanford as your first choice;
- You have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well. When we review your early application, it is important to have a strong transcript through grade 11 because we will not have your grades from the first semester of your senior year;
- You have enough time before the November 1 deadline to write a thoughtful application.
Three Possible Restrictive Early Action Decisions
- You are offered admission, and you have until May 1 to respond to your offer. If you apply for financial aid by the November 15 priority deadline, Stanford will provide your financial aid notification by mid-December.
- You are not offered admission. This is a final decision, and you may not reapply in Regular Decision.
- Your application is deferred to Regular Decision, and you will receive a final decision by early April.
Stanford's philosophy is to make final decisions whenever possible. As a result, Stanford defers only a small percentage of Restrictive Early Action applications to Regular Decision.
Restrictive Early Action Policy
It is Stanford policy that:
- if you apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private college/university under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan.
- you may not apply to any public university under an early binding plan, such as Early Decision.
- if you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action, you may apply to other colleges and universities under their Regular Decision plan.
- if you apply to Stanford under Restrictive Early Action and you are either not offered admission or your application is deferred, you may apply to another college’s Early Decision II plan.
It is Stanford policy that you may simultaneously apply to Stanford with a decision plan of Restrictive Early Action and to the following:
- any public college/university with a non-binding early application plan or early application deadline.
- any college/university with a non-binding rolling admission process.
- any foreign college/university with a non-binding application plan on any schedule.
- any military academy.
- any college/university with an early deadline for a scholarship or special academic program, as long as:
- the decision is non-binding; and
- applying early is required in order to be considered for the scholarship or program.
Frequently Asked Questions
For most majors at the University of Southern California, students are required to apply Early Action in order to be eligible for merit scholarships. Because the Early Action program at USC is non-binding and students must apply early to be considered for merit scholarships, USC qualifies as an exception to Stanford’s policy, and students may apply to both Stanford and USC early.
You may not apply concurrently to Stanford Restrictive Early Action and MIT Early Action. While MIT does not place limits on where else students can apply early, it is a private institution and Stanford policy is such that:
If you apply to Stanford during Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private U.S. college/university under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan.
If your application is deferred, you do not need to re-apply; you will be provided with a form to share any updates since your original application.