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The Ivy Coach Daily

February 11, 2007

Will Colleges Be Dropping Early Admissions Policies?

Early Admission, Early Admissions Policies, Policies for Early Admission
UVA, Harvard, and Princeton have dropped their Early admissions programs (photo credit: Patrickneil).

Are Early Decision and Early Action programs on the outs at our nation’s elite universities? When schools such as Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia recently announced that they will be dropping their Early admissions programs, many high school students, parents, and college counselors began to wonder if this marked the beginning of what could be a new trend in highly selective college admissions. Would other elite universities soon follow their lead? Would elite university after elite university soon choose to do away with their own Early Decision or Early Action policies and only allow students to apply Regular Decision? For students and parents navigating the churning waters of college admissions these days, it seems to be the question du jour.

What’s the Difference Between Early Decision and Early Action?

But first, some may wonder what the difference is between Early Decision and Early Action. Some schools have Early Decision policies. Some schools have Early Action policies. Under a school’s Early Decision policy, students apply by November 1st. They typically learn of their decision in mid-December — be it an acceptance, a deferral, or a denial. If the student is accepted after applying Early Decision, the student is bound to attend the school. This student’s college admissions process is over — hooray! If the student is denied admission, the student will not be a member of the school’s next incoming class. If the student is deferred, the student’s candidacy will be reviewed again by the school with all other Regular Decision applications. A verdict will be rendered typically by April. At most highly selective universities, the last two weeks or so of the Regular Decision round are reserved for revisiting the deferred applications of Early candidates. If the student is then admitted in Regular Decision, the student is not bound to attend. Under a school’s Early Action policy, students can also be admitted, deferred, or denied. Students apply by November 1st and decisions are reached by mid-December. Everything is the same with one exception: students who are admitted Early Action are not bound to attend. They can thus apply to other universities and choose to matriculate elsewhere. If they do choose to attend the school to which they were admitted Early Action, they just have to notify that school by May 1st of their intention — just as they would if they chose to matriculate to a school that offered them admission in Regular Decision.

Why Would Colleges Abandon Early Policies?

So why would schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and UVA choose to abandon their Early policies? These policies, after all, serve these schools. As an example, if Dartmouth College admits 390 students in Early Decision and the admissions office is seeking to fill a class of around 1,065 students, they’ve got over 35% of their class filled by mid-December. The admissions office thus has less to worry about in the Regular Decision round. Even if the strength of the Regular Decision pool doesn’t meet their expectations or even if they don’t get quite as many Regular Decision applicants as they had hoped, 35% of their class is still already in place. Colleges, you see, are insecure — even our nation’s elite colleges. When people are insecure, they often turn to therapy. Our nation’s elite colleges turn to Early policies. But Early policies are far from perfect. In fact, many argue they advantage the already advantaged since Early pools are often filled with candidates from affluent backgrounds, including legacy candidates and recruited athletes. And that’s precisely why schools like Harvard, Princeton, and UVA are experimenting with doing away with such policies — in the admirable hope of leveling the playing field. But will other elite universities soon follow their lead? We at Ivy Coach have a crystal ball and our crystal ball hereby forecasts that other highly selective universities will not follow the lead of Harvard, Princeton, and UVA. Rather, they will keep their Early policies in place. And why? It’s simple. Because colleges are insecure — even the very best colleges — and they love to be loved. Applying Early is a demonstration of love. To eliminate such policies would only increase the insecurity of America’s elite colleges.

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