Early applications increase across Ivy League

Luke Ciancarelli

January 20, 2017

Early applications across the Ivy League mirrored Yale’s surge in numbers this year.

All eight member schools saw an increase in the number of students applying to an early program, and five colleges — Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania — received a record-breaking number of applications.

Yale saw a 9 percent increase in early applications this year, snapping a three-year period of relative stagnation for the number of early applicants. However, it accepted more students this early cycle compared to previous years, resulting in a comparable early admissions rate to that of last year despite the rise in applications.

A record-breaking 4,086 applicants applied early to Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Unlike the other Ivy League colleges, however, Columbia has not released its early acceptance rate.

Cornell also saw the unprecedented number of 5,384 students apply to its early decision program, marking a 10 percent uptick from last year. With the larger applicant pool, the early acceptance rate fell from 27.4 to 25.6 percent.

Harvard received the largest number applications since it reinstituted its early application program in 2011, with 6,473 early applications to its class of 2021. Harvard admitted 938 of those applicants.

With the highest early application numbers in the history of its 15-year program, Brown received 3,170 applications and admitted 695 students. This cycle’s 21.9 percent acceptance rate is on par with the 22 percent early acceptance rate last year, the highest in recent years, according to The Brown Daily Herald.

Penn’s season was similarly record-setting, with 6,147 applying early, a 7 percent increase over the year prior. Accepting 1,335 of these students, Penn’s acceptance rate dropped from 23.2 the year before to 22 percent for the class of 2021.

While not making its way into the institutional history books, the class of 2021 early action pool was the largest in six years for Princeton, marking a jump of 18 percent from the previous year.

Dartmouth recorded the smallest increase in application numbers across the Ivy League, with only a 3.7 percent increase over last year’s pool.

The surge in application numbers at Yale comes at the same time that the applicant pool grows more diverse than it has ever been. Early application programs have been criticized in the national media for favoring applicants from privileged socio-economic backgrounds. But according to Director of Outreach Mark Dunn, Yale’s early pool has become more diverse yearly, just like its regular pool.

“In both the early action and regular decision rounds, the annual percentage increases in applications from students who identify as members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education exceed the overall percentage increases in applications,” Dunn said. “In other words, as Yale’s applicant pool has been growing, it has also been growing more diverse. This is true if you look at the overall applicant pool, the early action pool or regular decision pools.”

This surge in early numbers across the Ivy League is not unprecedented, according to Brian Taylor, managing director of the New York-based college consulting firm Ivy Coach.

Taylor said both early and regular application numbers tend to rise at every Ivy League college each year with only a few notable exceptions. With admissions rate falling at those institutions, Taylor speculated that more students are beginning to realize the advantages of applying early to the Ancient Eight.

“When you apply early, your odds of getting in are significantly stronger,” Taylor wrote in an email to the News. “Any argument otherwise is simply a misconception. Half of the incoming class is filled by some early pools — even over half like at the University of Pennsylvania. As more and more students and parents realize this reality, more and more will apply early.”

However, according to the Yale admissions website, applying early does not increase one’s chance of being admitted to Yale. The rate of early admission has been higher than regular admission rate historically because many of the strongest applicants apply early, the website says.

Ziad Ahmed, an admitted student to the Yale class of 2021 said one of the biggest reasons every Ivy League school saw an increase in early application numbers this year was the increasingly competitive admissions process.

“Kids have to strategize more diligently in order to even feel like they have a shot,” Ahmed said. “Most kids believe that applying early does give some sort of advantage irrespective of the university, and if a student has dreams of going to an Ivy League school, all of which have extremely low acceptance rates, that student is going to try to maximize their slim chances, and thus many applied early.”

Ahmed also said that because of pressure in high school “to be the best, to get into the best college and to get the best grades,” many students look for validation as quickly as possible and are driven to apply early.

Yale had 5,086 early applicants to the class of 2021.