More info on EA Global admissions

Applications are open for EA Global San Francisco 2020, and we sent out responses to the first batch of applicants on Friday.

We have a standard set of FAQs on the website, but here are some things we (Ben West, Sky Mayhew, and Julia Wise, who work on admissions) expect could use extra clarification:

Changing application pool

  • In past years, particularly in 2016, most people who applied to EA Global were accepted if they were reasonably involved in EA.

  • Over the last two years, the level of involvement with EA of typical applicants has risen a lot. At one point the typical person who didn’t get accepted was barely involved with EA, and now the typical person we regretfully don’t accept is probably pretty knowledgeable about EA and has been involved for at least a few years.

  • We also suspect a lot of involved EAs are not applying because they know they might not be accepted.

Why you might not have gotten in

If you applied to the conference and didn’t get accepted, you are probably a dedicated EA doing valuable things. In fact, this is the typical person we turn down.

Reasons you might not have gotten in:

  • A lot of people from your local group applied, and we took some but not everyone

  • You’re an undergraduate or fairly new in your EA involvement

  • You’re in a field with lots of other EAs (e.g. you’re in the early stages of getting into cultured meat or machine learning)

  • You’ve been several times before and we want to give a spot to a first-timer

  • You’re working in a field where we don’t expect to have people at the conference who can be very helpful to you

If you’re new, don’t assume you won’t get in

We want EA Global to be an event where new people can find a place, not just an old-timers’ club. In particular, we want the conference to be a place where students, young professionals, and people changing fields can get mentorship to help launch them in their fields or careers.

Some points to consider:

  • We do take some undergraduates and early-stage professionals, so please do still apply.

  • We want to include people from geographic areas without a lot of EAs, so you can bring back ideas to your local group.

  • We want to include people who yet aren’t as involved in EA but have expertise that EA needs, particularly if you can mentor others on areas like policy work or nonprofit operations.

  • We’re trying out things like a “guides program” to pair up newcomers with more experienced attendees who can orient them.

Why do we use an application at all?

Other typical methods that events use are

  • Raising prices so that tickets go to people who are willing and able to pay a lot.

  • First-come, first-served (in the most extreme cases leading to the fastest clickers getting tickets)

  • Randomization

We don’t think any of these are a good fit for EA Global. We think an application process is the best way to allocate the limited spaces to the people who can best use them. We recognize that it’s imperfect, and if you have feedback either about the application process in general or about a specific decision, please do let us know at

(As an example of the imperfection of the process, EA Global once rejected an application from someone who then went on to work at Open Philanthropy Project less than 2 years later.)

Why not make it larger?

The largest EA Global was about 1000 people in 2016, and we got feedback that it was too big and that it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Our recent events have been between 500 − 650 people including speakers, volunteers, and staff.

Venues above that size tend to be significantly more expensive, or less suited to the event. We already subsidize tickets and provide financial aid to keep prices reasonable, so more attendees cost CEA more. (We know there are a variety of opinions about the tradeoffs between cost and the quality of the venue/​logistics/​catering, and we’ll continue to look at those tradeoffs carefully.)

We’ll continue exploring the question of how big the event should be, including ways to help people connect better even within a large event.

What should you do if you don’t get in?

  • Try again for another event.

  • Get or stay involved in a local group.

  • Stay tuned for local EAGx conferences happening over the next year.

  • Keep exploring, studying, working, and donating.

We know there are far more people making important contributions to the world and to EA than we can fit in one building. Thank you for what you’re doing.