Early Action: What Does It Mean?

This year, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will have an early action decision date for the first time. It is actually pretty great, because it means you could get a decision on December 16! But what does early action mean at Illinois and does it really even matter? Let’s look into it a little.

Thinking Sponge Bob

What is early action at Illinois?

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, early action applicants will receive a decision on December 16, as well as priority consideration for our honors programs, merit-based scholarships, and competitive majors.  Even better, early action at Illinois is non-binding. This means you will can still apply to other schools and you will have until May 1 to make your final decision.

When December 16 comes around, you could receive one of three decisions: admit, deny or defer.  You can learn a little more about these decisions here.

Our current goal is to defer as few students as possible during the early action review process. If you happen to be deferred, you will receive your final decision on February 3. To ensure a consistent and fair review process for all students, we will not consider any additional information (think first semester senior year grades or new activities/awards from first semester).  We will use the information from your initial application.

What do I need to do?

Basically, you just need to make sure we have everything we need to make your application complete in our office by November 1 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time (23:59 military time). This includes your application, application fee or fee waiver, and your test scores (for international students, this means ACT/SAT and TOEFL/IELTS, if you will be submitting them).

So you can wait until the first of November to do this, right? WRONG!!!

1. Early is always better. You never know when your computer is going to crash or Godzilla is going to smash your house. EARLY IS BETTER.


2. You self-report your grades in our application. That means you need to get a copy of your high school transcript (9th through 11th grades plus your 12th year course list) to use when you apply. You will probably need your counselor to help you get that. Counselors are not usually happy to get late night phone calls on application deadlines for grades.  You may think, “Oh, but I can remember all of  my grades.” Really, you would be surprised how often people who think they can remember their grades end up guessing wrong and cheating themselves out of the A they actually earned. Trust me, having the transcript will save time and help you get all of the credit you deserve for your hard work.

3. Test scores take time to get here. In fact, you really need to request scores before October 5 for them to arrive on time to meet the early action deadline. For many of our students who send test scores months or even years in advance, this won’t be an issue, but this does mean any test dates after October 5 or scores sent after October 5 will not make it in on time for consideration. It is good to know that you can send us updated test scores as long as they are in our office and matched to your file prior to the decision release date. That means you can always send us a test score from 11th grade and update it with your killer October scores when they are released.

4. You need to have a solid idea of what your first-choice major will be. All Illinois applicants get to choose a first and second-choice program. While you will be able to change your second-choice major after the November 1 deadline and still keep your early action status, if you change your first choice major after November 1, you will lose your early action status.  This means you would get your decision on February 3.

5. Questions—You are going to have them! We are usually pretty good about getting back to students within two-three business days, but even we won’t be able to answer your questions in five minutes. You need to make sure you give yourself time to ask anything that may give you pause as you go through the application.

Should I apply early action?

Yes, in my opinion everyone should apply early action. EVERYONE. Do you know how great it is going to be to go into your fall finals knowing that your Illinois decision is just around the corner? Super great, that is how great. Plus, remember, applying early action gives you priority consideration for merit aid, honors programs and competitive majors. The real question is: Why wouldn’t you?

Sponge Bob Dancing


*Final note: Performing and Visual Arts applicants could see a delay in their decisions based on audition dates, portfolio review and competitiveness of the program (up to March 1). This is so the college has time to review all required additional application materials. These students will still benefit from priority consideration for honors programs, merit scholarships, and competitive programs.


Please note that comments close after 90 days.


September 28, 2016, 4:20 pm

If my student is taking another ACT in October, should they still apply early action? what if the October score is higher & you don’t have it by decision time.


Dhanraj Parekh

September 29, 2016, 11:12 pm

Hello, This is a great and highly informative article but I have a few follow up questions-
So if I take my SAT in october and november, how exactly will that work? will you take my october sat results into consideration rather than the november one? (assuming I did better in november). Also, I’ve done GCSE and A levels, so do you require my highschool transcript? (Since my highschool grades aren’t standardised and my GCSEs and A levels grades are a better indicator of my academic qualifications)



October 4, 2016, 9:31 am

Hi Dhanraj,
Great questions! If you are applying Early Action, you’ll need to have a set of test scores in our office by November 1st to complete your application by the Early Action deadline. We generally recommend sending older test scores you already have to do this. The reason for this is because if your October test is delayed for any reason, they won’t reach our office in time. Once an application is completed, we’ll accept updated test scores as long as they arrive in our office within a reasonable amount of time before the decision is released. We advise having all test scores submitted to our office by early December for final consideration.
We don’t need transcripts from any applicants at this stage. Everything we need will be reported in your Self-Reported Academic Record. As a student who is doing GCSEs and A-levels, you would report your GCSE results and the subjects you will be sitting for in your A-Levels.
I hope this helps, keep those great questions coming!



October 4, 2016, 9:36 am

Hi Griffin,
Yes, they definitely should!
To apply Early Action, your student will need to have a set of test scores in our office by November 1st to complete his or her application by the deadline. We generally recommend students send older test scores to do this (if the October test is delayed for any reason, they won’t reach our office in time). Once the student’s application is completed, we’ll accept updated test scores as long as they arrive in our office within a reasonable amount of time before the decision is released. We advise having all test scores submitted to our office by early December for final consideration.
Let us know if you have any more questions!



October 23, 2016, 3:59 pm

I am looking to transfer for the fall of 2017. Is there an early-action deadline for transfer applicants? I really appreciate the help.



October 24, 2016, 8:36 am

Is there a way to know if you have received my test scores?



October 24, 2016, 8:42 am

Hi Hannah,

Great question! We do have a Priority Filing Period for fall transfer applicants. If you wish to receive that priority consideration you would need to have your application in our office and completed by February 1st.




October 24, 2016, 3:15 pm

I am an international student who transferred to a U.S. high school beginning second semester of 9th grade. If I am accepted, will I need to send an official transcript from my high school in China for first semester of 9th grade?



October 24, 2016, 4:24 pm

Hi June,

You can actually see if we have your test scores matched to your application by checking the Application Status through your myIllini Account. Just click on your application in the main myIllini page (the blue text under “High Five: You Submitted an App”).

It may take a few days after you submit your application to match to your record. If it has been a few weeks since you sent your test scores and it still isn’t showing feel free to contact the Admissions Office. We can dig a little deeper.



October 24, 2016, 4:25 pm

Hello Shirley,

Yes. If you were accepted we would request you send us an official copy of your transcript from your time studying in China when you sent your other high school transcripts.

I love it when people plan ahead! 🙂



October 25, 2016, 3:21 pm


Thank you for the help. Just to clarify, if I turn my application in before February 1st, will I get my admissions decision before the all other admissions decisions are released mid-April? Thanks again.



October 26, 2016, 2:54 pm

I recently paid for expedited delivery for the SATs, they state should take 3-4 days. ACT sends it electronically and I cant expedite but I would think Electronic should be fairly quick. I am worried when you say SAT and ACT should be sent before Oct 5. Should I still apply or have I missed your Oct 5 date? Also if you don’t get the grades in time and I have already paid for the application will I be put into regular decision application status?



October 26, 2016, 5:18 pm


Students who apply by the Priority deadline generally get decisions before mid-April, you are correct. They also receive priority consideration for programs that are competitive or have limited space (Example: Business or Engineering).

My favorite part is just that you are done early though. You never know what will happen as you get deeper into the semester. Best just to get it out of the way! 😉



October 27, 2016, 1:32 am


What if I send Toefl and ACT later than October 5th, and my scores are sent to you before November 1st? Will you still take consideration on my scores?




October 27, 2016, 4:15 pm

Hi Mike,

October 5th was the latest date we would guarantee we would receive test scores by the deadline, but there is still a chance scores sent later could arrive in time for consideration. We do not subscribe to the rush system for ACT or SAT so your scores will arrive on the general timeline of two to four weeks.

The best way to see if your scores were received in time for Early Action or not is to check out your Application Status page in your myIllini account. If your scores are dated as received as on or before November 1st you will be considered EA.

If your scores come in too late for Early Action you would be considered for the general admissions cycle and get your decision on February 3rd.

Feel free to let us know if you have more questions!



October 27, 2016, 4:17 pm

Hello Alina,

The answer to your question is very similar to Mike’s. It depends on when they reach our office. If they do not reach out office in time for the November 1st deadline your application would be considered for our general admissions deadline.

You will be able to see if your scores made the deadline through the Application Status section of the myIllini account as I explained to Mike above.

Remember to let us know if you have more questions. You are never alone and we always want to help!



October 28, 2016, 1:33 am


My son is keen on UIUC and has submitted his application on 27th Oct. However, he ordered SAT & Toefl scores to be sent to UIUC on 27th October. That means, they will reach you only by 14th or 15th November. Will he still be considered as an Early Applicant?

Still there are 4 days to the EA deadline. Do you advice him to request college board for ‘rush scores’ by paying additional fee?




October 28, 2016, 3:16 pm

Hello Laila,

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that scores sent after the recommended October 5 (https://admissions.illinois.edu/Apply/Freshman/dates) will arrive in time for EA consideration, and we do not accept rushed scores (they come along the same timeline as general score requests).

That being said, there is still a chance the scores will get here in time, it all depends on how quickly they can be sent and uploaded. The best way to see if your application was completed in time for Early Action consideration is to check your myIllini Freshmen Application Status page. It will say at the top of the page if your application is complete and when you can expect your decision.

If your application doesn’t end up being complete in time for Early Action consideration, we will still consider the student for our general deadline (decisions out February 3rd). My personal opinion would be to go ahead and submit just so you know it is done.



October 29, 2016, 6:17 am


You have a great Blog

British Council at the place I reside do not have the address to send the IELTS score electronically.

Is there an address to send the IELTS score or can it be sent to Under Graduate Students, Admissions & Records, 901 West Illinois Street, Urbana, IL 61801



October 30, 2016, 12:00 am

Hi Nidhi,

You already have it all figured out! We are not a part of the electronic sending system for IELTS so scores have to be sent via mail. The Undergraduate Admissions address at 901 W. Illinois Street is exactly where you should send it.

Thanks for checking!




October 30, 2016, 3:30 am


If I submit my application before November 1st but if my SAT scores doesn’t reach you by by the EA date when will I be getting my decisions.
Again, will considered as EA applicant??

Thank you!



October 30, 2016, 3:44 am

Hi Amber,
I have submitted our SAT score a year in advance, the only issue is with the IELTS score which may be delayed by a couple of days . In this case please advise if I should wait for the regular decision application or apply for early action before the deadline of 1st November. Which alternative should be the best for me. Thanks



October 30, 2016, 6:49 pm

Hi Pradyumna,
Everything needs to be received by our office by the early action deadline to get the early action consideration. If your scores do not reach our office in time for early action consideration, we’ll automatically consider your application in our general admissions pool. Your myIllini Freshman Application Status page will show you when to expect your decision.
If you have more questions, feel free to contact our admissions staff at admissions@illinois.edu.



October 30, 2016, 6:55 pm

Hi Rukkaiya,
Either way, I’d advise submitting your application earlier rather than waiting. There is always a chance your IELTS scores will reach our office in time for you to still receive early action consideration. If they don’t, at least you’ll know your Illinois application is complete and you just have to wait for your decision to be released on February 3rd.