Will Colleges Know If I Apply to More Than One School Early?

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I have a question about Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA). I am thinking of applying restrictive early action (REA) to Harvard or ED to Duke. Both obviously have limitations about where else I can apply. Ideally I'd like to do REA at Harvard, but even if I do that, I would possibly miss the regular decision deadline at Duke (Dec. 20 if I want an interview) before I hear from Harvard ("mid-December"). So in trying to line these up I'm getting frustrated and I wanted to ask how will a college know if I just end up applying to both an REA and an ED program? It's not that I'm trying to hedge my bets, it's just that I want to be able to have both options and the timing is terrible with all these dates.

The Harvard Single-Choice Early Action restrictions only prohibit you from applying to other colleges via an early application option (with the exception of public or international institutions). So you can submit your Duke Regular Decision application any time in order to make sure you meet the December 20 priority deadline for interviews. However, if you don't want to spend the extra bucks on a Duke application fee should you get good news from Harvard, rest assured that "The Dean" would bet the mortgage money that your Harvard verdict will arrive before your December 20 cutoff.

As you surely know, however, you cannot apply via REA to Harvard and ED to Duke. An ethical school counselor will never sign off on concurrent ED and Single-Choice EA applications. But when a counselor is clueless about the rules and allows this misconduct, the college folks may find out in assorted ways. If you decide to take a chance that you won't get caught, you could risk losing your spot at both places if you are.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at

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