Early Decision 2026: Acceptance Rates for 18 Top Colleges

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    Applying to a college through Early Decision is an excellent choice for many students, especially if they are applying to Ivy League institutions or other highly-selective colleges such as MIT or Vanderbilt University. Whether Early Decision or Early Action are offered varies between institutions and is liable to change over the years. You need to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.

    In this article, we will review key differences between Early Action and Early Decision applications as well as discuss Early Decision 2026 application trends. Read on to see Class of 2026 Early Decision dates and learn everything you need to know to have a successful college application season.

    What does early action and early decision mean?

    Colleges that allow Early Action and Early Decision programs allow applicants to submit their college applications at a much earlier date. You can usually apply Early Action to multiple schools — unless the school specifies that they offer restrictive Early Action, also known as Single Choice Early Action or SCEA. In contrast, you can only apply to one school through Early Decision. Early Decision is binding for admitted students. If accepted, the student must attend that school.

    Because of the benefits offered by applying early, any high school student going through the admissions process — especially minority students such first-generation students and students of color — should understand and consider Early Decision.

    What is Early Decision II?

    Schools that offer Early Decision may also offer Early Decision II. Early Decision II applications are binding decisions submitted either near or on the Regular Decision deadline. With Early Decision II, you get more time to work on your application than for Early Decision I, and it may increase your chances of being accepted over Regular Decision. You lose the benefits, however, of Early Decision I: Early Decision II will have a lower acceptance rate, and you will still have to apply to other schools through Regular Decision.

    Class of 2026 early decision statistics

    It’s important to stay current with Early Decision statistics, especially in regards to how they compare to last year’s statistics and the less specified Class of 2026 college acceptance rates. This will help you prepare and plan ahead for your anticipated admissions cycle. Look at the chart below for important information concerning:

    Early decision acceptance rates 2026: List of 18 top colleges

    Below are the top 14 universities that offer Early Decision and Early Action application options. Review the Early Decision Class of 2026 statistics below to gauge the size of each school’s applicant pool, admission rates, as well as your probability of admittance.

    College

    Number of early applicants

    Number of early applicants accepted

    Early acceptance rate for class of 2026

    Early acceptance rate for class of 2025

    Link to college website

    Brown University

    6,146

    896

    15%

    16%

    Brown’s website

    Columbia University

    6,305

    650

    10%

    10%

    Columbia’s website

    Cornell University

    TBD    

    TBD

    TBD

    21%

    Cornell’s website

    Dartmouth College

    2,633

    530

    20%

    21%

    Dartmouth’s website

    Harvard University

    9,406

    740

    7.9%

    7.4%

    Harvard’s website

    University of Pennsylvania

    7,795

    1,218

    16%

    15%

    UPenn’s website

    Princeton University

    N/A

    N/A

    N/A

    N/A

    Princeton’s website

    Yale University

    7,288

    800

    11%

    10.5%

    Yale’s website

    Boston College

    4,443

    1,250

    28%

    39%

    Boston College’s website

    Duke University

    4,015

    855

    21%

    17%

    Duke’s website

    Emory University

    2,205

    804

    37%

    39%

    Emory’s website

    Georgetown University

    8,832

    881

    10%

    11%

    Georgetown’s website

    John Hopkins University

    2,500

    520

    21%

    N/A

    John Hopkins’ website

    Northwestern University

    N/A

    N/A

    25%

    N/A

    Northwestern’s website

    Rice University

    N/A     

    440

    N/A

    16%

    Rice’s website

    Tulane University

    N/A

    N/A

    10%

    N/A

    Tulane’s website

    Vanderbilt University

    2,700   

    650

    24%

    18%

    Vanderbilt’s website

    University of Virginia

    3,466

    1,097

    32%

    33%

    University of Virginia’s website

    Brown University

    The total number of applicants for Brown Early Decision 2026 increased by 11% from last year. Of the admitted Early Decision students, 51% identify as students of color, 17% identify as first-generation college students, and 57% applied for financial aid.

    Columbia University

    A total of 6,305 students applied to Columbia ED in 2026, compared to 6,435 applicants from its previous admissions cycle. The admit rate increased slightly to 10.3%.

    Cornell University

    Cornell has opted not to disclose its Cornell Early Decision Class of 2026 statistics until the end of the admissions cycle. The university disclosed, however, that there are approximately 9,500 Cornell Early Decision 2026 applicants.

    Dartmouth College

    Dartmouth’s ED acceptance rate for 2026 decreased slightly from last year, falling from 21% to 20%. They accepted 530 Early Decision students this year. This will account for about 46% of the incoming class of 2026.

    Harvard University

    Harvard’s Early Decision acceptance rate increased slightly to 7.9% this year. They accepted 740 of 9,406 Harvard Early Decision applicants.

    University of Pennsylvania

    Penn received 7,795 Early Decision applications this year, a slight decrease from last year’s Early Decision applicant pool of 7,962. Of these students, Penn admitted 1,218, which will account for approximately 50% of Penn’s incoming Class of 2026.

    Princeton University

    Princeton University has chosen not to release any Class of 2026 admissions statistics at this time.

    Yale University

    Yale University admitted 800 Early Action applicants, 11% of a total of 7,288 applicants.

    Boston College

    Of the 4,443 Boston College Early Decision 2026 applicants, only 1,250 students were offered admission, giving Boston College an 2026 Early Decision acceptance rate of 28%.

    Duke University

    Of the 4,015 Duke Early Decision 2026 applicants, only 855 were admitted. This gives Duke a 2026 Early Decision acceptance rate of 21%, an increase from its 2025 Early Decision acceptance rate of 17%.

    Emory University

    Emory’s 2026 Early Decision acceptance rate decreased slightly from the year before. Their 39% acceptance rate dropped to 37% this year. In total, they accepted 804 Early Decision applicants.

    Georgetown University

    Georgetown University’s Early Decision acceptance rate dropped from 11% to 10% this year. Of 8,832 Early Decision applicants, 881 gained admission. 

    John Hopkins University

    John Hopkins University admitted 520 of 2,500 Early Decision applicants this year, giving them an overall Early Decision acceptance rate of 21%.

    Northwestern University

    Northwestern University admitted 25% of their Early Decision applicants during the Class of 2026 college admissions cycle.

    Rice University

    Rice University accepted 440 Early Decision applicants during this year’s college admissions cycle.

    Tulane University

    Due to over-admittance last year, Tulane ED acceptance rate for 2026 has decreased significantly to 10%.

    Vanderbilt University

    Vanderbilt’s Early Decision 2026 acceptance rate increased this year from 18% to 24%. There were a total of 2,700 Vanderbilt ED 2026 applicants; of these, 650 applicants were offered admission.

    University of Virginia

    Of 3,466 Early Decision applicants, 1,097 students were offered admission, granting the University of Virginia a 2026 Early Decision acceptance rate of 32%, a slight decrease from its 33% acceptance rate from the year before.

    Early decision 2026 trends

    College acceptance rates are currently at a record low. This includes 2026 Early Decision statistics. With the rise of test-optional admission policies, more and more students are applying to top universities, especially Ivy League institutions. Overall, students with average test scores are widening their application reach. This has caused serious applicants to consider early admission programs at higher rates than in previous application Cycles.

    Other Class of 2026 college application trends include:

    Many of these admissions statistics concerning the 2026 incoming class are largely reflective of the social and financial effects of the pandemic. This is important to keep in mind as you review admissions decisions and statistics.

    Key takeaways about early decision class of 2026

    An essential part of well-planned college admissions is prioritizing and planning out your applications. Starting 

    applications early and periodically working on them will ensure a polished product when the deadlines approach. Overall, it is inefficient to work on all your applications around the same time. You want to be able to focus and finish one set of applications so you can fully apply yourself to another.

    Then, you need to decide which applications to start early so that some will be ready by the early deadlines. Even if you decide that Early Decision is not the best idea, you may want to still complete some applications by the Early Action deadline. This is a way to pace yourself so you don’t have to scramble during December. If you get accepted through Early Decision or Early Action, you are done dealing with college admissions before the New Year! This will help alleviate some stress as you continue to prepare for college by completing financial aid documents before your enrollment.

    Make sure to check the Early Decision deadlines for all colleges you have on your list. As with regular decision deadlines, Early Action and Early Decision vary between schools.

    Here are Early Decision Dates for the class of 2026 for some of the top schools in the US:

    November 1st Early Decision
    November 15th Early Decision
    Top Schools without Early Decision
    Barnard College
    American University
    California Institute of Technology
    Boston College
    Amherst College
    Clemson University
    Boston University
    Bowdoin College
    Florida State University
    Brown University
    Carleton College
    Georgetown University
    Carnegie-Mellon University
    Colgate University
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Columbia University
    Hamilton College
    Harvard University
    Cornell University
    Haverford College
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Dartmouth College
    Harvey Mudd College
    Pennsylvania State University
    Duke University
    Middlebury College
    Princeton University
    Emory University
    Swarthmore College
    Loyola Marymount University
    Fordham University
    Syracuse University
    Southern Methodist University
    George Washington University
    Tulane University
    Stanford University
    Johns Hopkins University
    University of Colorado – Boulder
    University of California Schools
    New York University
    Wake Forest University
    University of Florida
    Northeastern University
    Wesleyan University
    University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
    Northwestern University
    Williams College
    University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
    Rice University
    University of Wisconsin – Madison
    Santa Clara University
    Washington and Lee University
    Tufts University
    Yale University
    University of Chicago
    University of Miami
    University of Notre Dame
    University of Pennsylvania
    University of Richmond
    University of Rochester
    University of Virginia
    Vanderbilt University
    Villanova University
    Washington University in St. Louis
    Wellesley College
    William & Mary

    Remember, this list is not exhaustive. Add the relevant Early Decision Date to your calendar, and good luck!

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