February 5, 2015
Early decision applicants will fill 54.4 percent of the Class of 2019 — the largest portion in Penn’s history.
This year marks the second consecutive year that Penn has accepted more than half of its class from the early decision pool, though the number of early decision applications has also been growing. This admissions cycle saw a total of 5,489 early decision applications, Penn’s all-time high and a five percent increase from the previous year.
With over half of the Class of 2019 admitted early decision, Penn’s commitment to forming a socioeconomically diverse class is called into question. Early decision applicants tend to have more affluent backgrounds since they can afford to commit to Penn before discovering their financial aid packages.
“A good percentage of applicants in the early round are not asking for aid,” Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, said.
However, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda cited the reason for the rise as increased financial flexibility among early decision applicants, as a result of grant policies, recruitment and programs like QuestBridge, which provides educational opportunities for low-income, high-achieving students.
“I do feel like there’s been a fundamental shift, and a lot of that has to do with the financial aid policies,” Furda said. “If Penn is your first choice, you can really see that the financial aid is going to work.”
Furda added that the admissions office admits students with an ideal class in mind. “If early decision could look like what we want the class to look like in regular decision, I’ll admit the whole class early decision,” he said.
Student Registration and Financial Services Communications Director Marlene Bruno echoed Furda’s sentiments. “Both the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Services fully support Penn’s commitment to increasing access,” Bruno said in an email. “As I recall, last year’s Class of 2018 was one of the most socioeconomically diverse classes enrolled in the University’s history.”
Taylor suggested that schools like Penn might fill the socioeconomic gaps with regular decision applicants. She added that the large number of regular decision applications that Penn receives allows the admissions office to build the diversity of the incoming class, despite the segment that has already been filled in the early decision round.
“There are enough applicants in the regular round to make that class a very diverse class, ethnically, socioeconomically, geographically,” Taylor said.
However, Taylor questioned Penn’s claim that it does not consider financial need. “As much as colleges say they’re need-blind, I’m not believing it,” she said.
She added that in order for students requesting aid to have a high chance of being accepted early decision, they must have a “compelling enough case.”
“Penn has the money to spend on students like that,” Taylor said.
With over half the freshman class determined in the early decision round, the regular decision pool becomes more competitive, with more applicants vying for increasingly fewer spots. Last year, Penn saw a record low regular decision acceptance rate of 7.3 percent after receiving a record high 35,788 regular decision applications.
Regular decision results for the Class of 2019 will be released on March 31 at 5 p.m.