Early admissions return to Harvard, Princeton

Seth Zweifler

February 24, 2011

Change may lead to slight decrease in Penn apps, Dean of Admissions says

The early admissions option is coming back to Harvard and Princeton universities.

Both schools announced Thursday that they will be reinstating non-binding early action programs for the Class of 2016. Harvard and Princeton both decided to discontinue their original early admissions programs in 2006, starting with the Class of 2012.

“We have carefully reviewed our single admission program every year, and we have been very pleased with how it has worked,” Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said in a statement. “But in eliminating our early program four years ago, we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same and they haven’t.”

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said Harvard and Princeton’s new options may lead to slightly fewer applications to Penn. However, the University could experience a jump in yield, he added.

“Students are going to be taken off the table through early action at Harvard and Princeton,” Furda said. “As a result, we may end up having less head-to-head overlap with those schools in regular decision because they’ll be admitting fewer students through regular decision.”

Penn’s early decision acceptance rate for the Class of 2015 was 26 percent, a decrease from 31 percent the previous year.

Furda said he was not surprised by the news, as rumors of potential early action additions “have been in the wind a bit of late.” He believed that the changes will have an impact “only on the margins” of Penn admissions.

While Furda has never discussed implementing early action at Penn with fellow administrators, he said it is something that he has “thought about in [his] mind.”

For Harvard, the decision comes as part of a larger effort to attract more low-income students to campus.

“We looked carefully at trends in Harvard admissions these past years and saw that … some of the best-prepared low-income and underrepresented minority students were choosing programs with an early-action option and therefore were missing out on the opportunity to consider Harvard,” Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael Smith said in a statement Thursday.

Penn students and future applicants offered mixed reactions to the news.

Last year, College and Wharton freshman Robbie Grove was rejected from Princeton — his top-choice school at the time. Though Grove has enjoyed his time at Penn so far, he said that he “definitely would have taken advantage” of Princeton’s new early-action option.

“I think it would have helped ease the burden of not making everything come down to one day in April,” Grove said.

When making his college decision, Wharton sophomore Eddie Elizondo chose to refuse an acceptance at Princeton in place of one at Penn. Elizondo does not think that an early-action option at Princeton would have influenced his final decision.

Kevin Wang — a junior at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa. — said he would “strongly consider” taking advantage of Princeton’s new early-action program. Though Princeton is Wang’s first choice, he also plans to apply regular decision to Penn.

Michael Goran, a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting, believes that the new early-action offerings might hurt Penn. While Penn will continue to attract top-caliber applicants, it may see less interest in its early decision program, he added.

Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, disagreed. Taylor thinks that Harvard and Princeton’s decisions will have no noticeable impact on Penn admissions. She added that “Penn in particular loves early decision and loves students who apply early decision.”

“This is a good move for Harvard, and it’s a good move for Princeton,” Taylor said. “But most of all, it’s a great move for students.”

Note: This article was updated from its original version to reflect that both Harvard and Princeton eliminated their early admissions programs in 2006, rather than Harvard following Princeton a year later.