Stanford Early Action Acceptance Rate & Decision Date

Stanford University is a private research institution with a vast, 8,180-acre suburban campus located in Palo Alto, 30 miles away from San Francisco. 

It is positioned in the heart of California’s Bay Area and the famous Silicon Valley. 

Established in 1885, the college has expanded to include seven different constituent schools, three of which are graduate schools. 

Although Stanford is not considered an Ivy League school, its high rank, prestigious reputation, and single-digit acceptance rate are quite similar to those of the Ivy League. 

According to the US News and World Report’s 2022 annual list, Stanford is ranked #6 among the best colleges and universities in the United States. 

The high quality of education and world-renowned faculty at the school have earned it the nickname “the Harvard of the West.”

Notable Stanford alumni include 31st US President Herbert Hoover, professional golf star Tiger Woods, and Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon. 

The school’s alumni network includes over 220,000 living graduates, who are highly esteemed professionals and scholars across the world. 

Moreover, Stanford’s expert teaching faculty currently includes an impressive 20 Nobel Prize laureates. Looking at the entire history of the college, Stanford can claim an impressive 84 Nobel Prize winners with a significant Stanford connection, placing it high on the list of colleges with the most Nobel Prizes.  

For anyone who wants to become a part of the Stanford University community and earn a degree from one of the best undergraduate institutions in the country, applying under the school’s early action program could be a great decision. 

Read on to learn more about Stanford’s early action acceptance rate, application deadline, deferral rate, and more. 

Stanford Early Action Acceptance Rate

Stanford University
Jawed, Stanford University Arches with Memorial Church in the background, CC BY-SA 4.0

The acceptance rate for early action applicants at Stanford University was about 9% in 2021, according to Ivy League Prep.

The school received 7,822 early action applications for the first-year graduating class of 2021, and 721 students from this applicant pool were offered admission. 

During the same year, Stanford received a total of 44,073 applications for first-year admission. Of these applicants, only 2,050 students were accepted to the school. 

Thus, the acceptance rate for regular action applicants during this admission cycle was a mere 4.7%. 

With such low acceptance rates, Stanford is one of the most selective colleges in the country. Furthermore, the elite school’s acceptance rates have dropped even further in the past few years.

For the first-year graduating class of 2025, Stanford received 55,471 applications, accepting only 2,190 students. This makes the acceptance rate for this year alone 3.95%, the lowest ever recorded in the university’s history. 

In fact, the last time Stanford’s acceptance rate was in the double digits was over a decade ago, for the class of 2011. 

Stanford Early Action Decision Date

Students who apply to Stanford University under the school’s restrictive early action program will receive an admissions decision by December 15 of each year. 

There are three possible decisions early action applicants may receive. First, students may find out that they have been rejected and will not be offered admission. 

These students may not apply again under regular decision; however, they may choose to reapply during the following admissions cycle. 

Second, students may be accepted and offered admission to Stanford. Applicants who receive offers for admission have until May 1 to notify the school about whether or not they will accept the offer and enroll at the school.

The last possible admissions decision early action applicants may receive is deferral, which means that their application will be reviewed a second time during the regular decision application cycle. 

In general, Stanford’s policy for their restrictive early action plan is that applicants are free to apply to other colleges under their regular decision programs, but they may not apply to early action at any other university, public or private. 

However, Stanford early action applicants who are deferred to the regular decision are permitted to apply to another school’s early decision II plan.

Stanford Early Action Deadline

Stanford University Department of Psychology
Emma Pease, Jordan Hall, Stanford University, CC BY-SA 4.0

The deadline to apply to Stanford under their restrictive early action program is November 1 of each year. 

For comparison, the regular decision application deadline is not until January 5, over two months later. Deadlines for applying for early decision II — an option for admission offered by some schools, but not Stanford — are generally around the beginning of January as well.  

On top of that, the deadline to apply to the school as a transfer student is March 15 each year.  

This means that transfer applicants have around four and a half months longer to compile application materials, craft a strong essay, and submit the completed application bundle to Stanford, compared to students who apply under the restrictive early decision program. 

Another critical deadline to keep in mind for those considering applying to Stanford is the financial aid deadline. The priority application deadline for applying for financial aid is November 15 every year. 

This means that early decision applicants have only a couple of weeks from the time of submitting their application to the school and submitting a financial aid application, which includes completing the FAFSA. 

Stanford EA Deferral Rate

The deferral rate for restrictive early decision applicants at Stanford University is 8.5%. 

Compared to other highly selective, elite schools similar to Stanford. 

For example, at Harvard and Yale, the deferral rates for early decision applicants are 68.1% and 57.6%, respectively. 

Additionally, at Princeton, the percentage of early decision applicants who are deferred is much higher, with a deferral rate of 78.9%.

In short, this means that, compared to similarly ranked colleges, early decision applicants at Stanford are far more likely to be rejected rather than deferred. 

The school’s policy of not deferring a large majority of early decision applicants is reflective of an intentional underlying philosophy that they have explicitly stated in the past. 

According to their website, Stanford’s general policy is to make as many final admissions decisions as promptly as possible. 

For this reason, the college defers as few restrictive early decision applicants as they can. 

Representatives from Stanford have stated that students who apply during the early decision cycle, only to learn later that their application has been deferred for reconsideration during the regular decision cycle, should actually consider this a good sign. 

This is because Stanford generally does not generally reconsider applications that are anything less than outstanding, so deferral is promising.

How to Apply to Stanford for Early Action

Stanford Graduate School of Business
Steve Castillo, Knight Management Center, CC BY 3.0

Students can use either the Common Application or the Coalition Application to apply to Stanford University under the restrictive early application program. 

Both applications will include a personal essay prompt. 

On top of the personal essay, the college also requires that applicants answer the Stanford Questions. These are a series of several short answer questions, with a limit of 50 words each for responses. 

Furthermore, the application will include three short essay questions. These essays must be a minimum of 100 words long, with an upper limit of 250 words. 

The short essay prompts are available on Stanford’s website for students who would like to familiarize themselves with the topics prior to beginning the application process.  

Because of the ongoing difficulties for standardized testing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford has decided to waive the SAT or ACT score submission requirement for any students applying during the 2021–2022 and 2022–23 academic years. 

However, those who wish to apply after the 2023 academic year are required to submit their test scores by the application deadline. 

Stanford does not prefer either of the two tests, nor do they not require students to complete the writing or essay portion of whatever test they choose. 

Students may choose to self-report scores at the time of applying, but those who receive offers for admission will be required to have their official test scores sent to the school through the College Board or ACT. 

There will be a nonrefundable application fee of $90 due at the time of applying. For students for whom the application fee may pose an insurmountable financial barrier to applying, fee waivers are available upon request through the application of their choice. 

In addition to the application information and the processing fee, students are required to submit an official high school transcript or equivalent academic record. 

A midyear transcript is also a required component of the application, but this is due later than the rest of the application materials. 

The deadline for submitting an official midyear transcript is February 15 each year, after first semester grades have been returned. 

Other required supplemental documents include a letter of recommendation written by a school counselor or another school administrator and a school report sent directly from the student’s high school. 

Additionally, students must request two letters of recommendation from two high school teachers. 

Stanford recommends that students request these letters from teachers they have had in eleventh or twelfth-grade teachers in a major academic area of study. 

These include, but are not limited to, subjects such as English, mathematics, science, a foreign language, social studies, or history.