Princeton University Cancels "Early Action" for 2021 Applicants

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

With a spot in the Ivy League, a U.S. News & World Report ranking of 1, and an admissions rate of roughly 5.8%, Princeton University is one of the most highly sought after schools in the nation. Recently, it has announced that in light of the numerous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be (1) waiving standardized testing requirements and (2) moving to a single application deadline for this next application cycle.

This is major news for students seeking to gain admission to Princeton in the fall of 2021. Here, we’ll aim to answer some of the most important questions that arise from the university’s decision to switch to a single application deadline this year. (To learn more about the waiving of standardized testing requirements and its implication for the college admissions process, check out our previous blog post.)

What exactly is this single application deadline?

For this coming application cycle, there will be one undergraduate application deadline of January 1, 2021. All applications will be due through either the Coalition Application or the Common Application on that date. All applicants will receive decisions by April 1, 2021.

How does this differ from Princeton’s previous admissions policies?

Previously, Princeton had both a Single-Choice Early Action (aka Restrictive Early Action) round and a Regular Decision round of admissions. Students applying for early action admission were required to submit their applications by November 1, while students applying for regular decision admission had a deadline of January 1.

For this upcoming batch of applications, Princeton is essentially getting rid of its early action round and shifting everyone to its regular decision round.

Are any of the other Ivy Leagues going to follow suit?

Princeton is currently the only Ivy League university that has paused its early admissions program. Harvard and Yale continue to offer Single-Choice Early Action, while Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, and Brown continue to offer Early Decision. Our college counselors are highly familiar with the varying admissions policies of each Ivy League and use this information to design the optimal application timeline and strategy for each student.

Does this change impact how students should go about the application process for Princeton?

The suspension of Princeton’s early admissions program and its shift to a single application deadline was due in large part to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the disruption and stresses that it continues to bring to high school students across the globe.

“We know returning to classes in fall 2020 will require students and staff to acclimate to an altered environment,” said dean of admission Karen Richardson in the official announcement by the university. “We hope that by pausing our Single-Choice Early Action program this year it will reduce some of the pressure on applicants and give them the time to prepare their strongest applications.”

In other words, this change is designed to give all students increased time to work on their applications. More time is never a bad thing, and it is particularly well deserved as students continue to face challenges associated with the pandemic in all elements of their lives.

At the same time, this also means that there will likely be a significant increase in the number of applications that Princeton receives in the one round of admissions that it will hold. (This is because all of the students that would have applied in November in the early action round will now also be applying in the regular decision round.)

So while it might be tempting to think that being given more time to submit the application means that students can start working on them later, the reality is that it’ll be more crucial than ever for those seeking admission to Princeton to have a stand-out application that will draw the attention of admissions officers, who now have an increased number of applications to consider at once. Thus, students who have the ability to start building their applications earlier are highly encouraged to do so. Our college counselors are eager to begin working with students to craft unique, compelling applications that will stand out from the crowd.

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