Have you read a lot of criticism directed at Early admission policies of late? If so, stick around because there’s another side to the story — a side we’ve been championing for many years.
Every now and then we come across an editorial on highly selective college admissions in which the author gets it right. We say every now and then because we come across so many editorials on highly selective college admissions in which misconceptions and falsehoods are perpetuated — further confounding parents and students navigating the process. But today we came across a piece written by Robert Massa, a former dean of enrollment at Johns Hopkins University, for “Inside Higher Ed” entitled “Colleges Should Abandon Early Admission? Really?” that is absolutely spot on. We love it when folks join the chorus. The more voices, the merrier.
As Massa writes, “Every year without fail, a well-respected educator comes out against early-admission programs, calling them ‘barriers to keep most low-income students out’…But early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition at the bulk of the nation’s nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. And in fact, they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students at the nation’s most prestigious institutions.” So very true! Massa raises the point that one of the major criticisms of Early programs is that students in low-income schools don’t know about the advantages of applying Early. But as Massa correctly asserts: “Colleges and universities can and do promote early decision and early action in all of their search communications, on their websites and in their brochures.” They sure do!
Ivy Coach salutes Robert Massa for telling it like it is and for correcting a major misconception about highly selective college admissions. As he states, “Early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition.”
But Massa isn’t done there and we can’t help but root him on. Go, Massa, Go! As he writes, “And the notion that low-income students can’t commit to enrolling through an early-decision program because they need financial aid is an equally empty hypothesis. First of all, the early Free Application for Federal Student Aid allows colleges to award actual aid upon early-decision admission. Second, as every early-decision institution will tell you, if the aid is not sufficient in the family’s mind, the student will be released from the early-decision commitment.” Amen! And of course, all students and parents have to do is Google the term “Net Price Calculator” and they can get a very good sense of what their net costs will be at a given institution.
The notion that Early Decision and Early Action policies unfairly disadvantage the underpriviledged is a false narrative. Rather than criticize schools for offering Early Decision and Early Action programs, perhaps these critics should instead raise awareness of the advantages of applying Early — especially for low-income young people. Kudos to Robert Massa for doing just that! Way to tell it like it is. We stand with you!
Have a question about Early admission policies? Post your question below and we’ll be sure to answer.
Ivy Coach was featured in today’s “Yale Daily News,” the newspaper of Yale University. The piece, by Luke Ciancarelli, is entitled “Early applications increase across Ivy League” and it focuses — naturally — on the rise in Early Action applications across the Ivy League for the Class of 2021. At Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Penn, and Brown, new all-time benchmarks were set in terms of the number of Early applications received. So we get it. Applications are up. ZZZzzz. What else is new?
But let’s add some color commentary to spice up these numbers. After all, Al Michaels doesn’t do football broadcasts all by himself. That’s be boring. As Ciancarelli writes in his piece, “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.'”
But not everybody agrees with us. And we get that. There are lots of folks touting misconceptions out there in the universe. Ciancarelli goes on to write, “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.”
Uh huh. Of course the Yale admissions office is going to write that there is no advantage in applying Early Action as compared to Regular Decision. The Early pool is historically — at every highly selective college — more affluent than the Regular Decision pool so it is not in the interest of admissions offices to tout the advantages of applying Early. Think about it. Why would the Early pool be comprised of the ‘strongest applicants’ — just because Yale is their first choice? The logic in the argument isn’t sound. Is there an advantage to applying Early? You bet there is. A greater percentage of students who apply Early, who show their love for their first choice school, get in than do their Regular Decision counterparts. Plain and simple.
Harold O. Levy is a former chancellor of the New York City public schools and we have long been fans of his work for students from underpriviledged backgrounds seeking to attend our nation’s most highly selective universities. His is a voice in higher education we greatly respect. After all, this was a man who, in the face of much opposition (including from the then-New York City mayor), wisely used his business acumen and reliance on data-driven analytics to reform one of America’s most notoriously broken school systems. Yesterday, Mr. Levy posted a piece on “Inside Higher Ed” about the discrimination that he believes is inherent in Early Decision and Early Action admissions policies. And while we respect his viewpoint, we can’t help but respectfully disagree.
Mr. Levy believes that Early Decision and Early Action policies at America’s universities unfairly discriminate against low-income and minority students. As he writes, “Many low-income students are unaware of the option of applying early…Guidance counselors at high schools with many low-income students are responsible for advising hundreds or as many as 1,000 students each, and so don’t have the time and, in many cases, the training to explain all the steps students can take to increase their odds of college admission…Most important, because low-income students can’t attend college without getting substantial financial aid, they can’t commit to enrolling in an institution by applying on an early-decision basis. They need to compare aid offers once they hear from all the colleges and universities that accept them. This fact alone essentially precludes those with financial need from applying early.”
We absolutely agree with Mr. Levy that school counselors at high schools with low-income students need to be better informed about the benefits of applying Early. They need to be better trained, to have a better understanding of the whole highly selective college admissions process. But we absolutely disagree with his argument that applying Early essentially ‘precludes’ students who need financial aid from applying. It’s an argument that Mr. Levy uses to essentially disqualify the practice of Early Decision and Early Action policies so let’s take a moment to analyze it.
There is absolutely no reason that a student who needs financial aid shouldn’t apply through a school’s Early Decision or Early Action policy. The whole theory presented by Mr. Levy has been outdated ever since the advent of the Net Price Calculator. We encourage our readers to Google any college name with the words “Net Price Calculator.” By doing so, a family can get a very good estimate of their net costs at that particular college. Colleges expect applicants to do their homework. They expect them to use the NPC.
We applaud the spirit of Mr. Levy’s remarks on Early Decision and Early action policies. But his central argument branding these policies as discriminatory against low-income students is, in a word, outdated.
So the whole notion of needing to “compare financial aid offers” may have held water back in the 1990’s when Mr. Levy was making very admirable reforms to our New York City public schools, but it’s an outmoded argument now. There is absolutely no reason that a student from a low-income family can’t apply Early Decision or Early Action armed with the knowledge of what they’ll be expected to pay for each year of college. Do we need to continue to get the word out to school counselors at low-income schools to tout the benefits of applying Early? You bet. But let’s leave arguments that made sense when Rudolph Giuliani was New York City’s mayor in the past. Like Rudy, it’s where they belong. Oh no we didn’t. We did.
Can universities do a better job of encouraging students from low-income families to apply Early? Yes. Can everyone do a better job of getting the word out that students don’t need to compare financial aid packages to have an idea of what they’ll be expected to pay at a given university? Yes. Is the current Early Decision and Early Action pool generally more affluent than the Regular Decision pool at most highly selective universities? Regrettably, yes. But there are enormous benefits to such policies — benefits Mr. Levy articulately points out in his piece — not only for the schools but also for the students. And there is absolutely no reason that students from low-income families can’t too capitalize on the benefits of these policies to receive an education at the college of their dreams, an education their family will be able to subsidize with financial aid.
Johns Hopkins University has released data on its Early Decision pool for the Class of 2021 and we’ve got it for our readers. In all, 591 students who applied Early Decision to the Baltimore-based school have been offered admission to be members of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2021. Congratulations to our students who are among the 591! These 591 students were selected out of a batch of 1,934 applicants to the university (5 more than for the last Early Decision cycle at JHU!), marking an admission rate of about 30.5%.
Johns Hopkins University loves its wind surfers, its science researchers, and its social activists.
But admissions statistics are only so interesting. We love it when colleges tout the students in their incoming classes with more specifics. As Johns Hopkins writes of its incoming class, “This group of early decision applicants includes nationally recognized researchers, innovators in various fields, artists, published authors, and social activists. Among them are the author of a bilingual cookbook, the founder of a non-profit that raises money for girls from low-income families who are interested in STEM fields, a nationally-ranked fencer, a children’s book writer, an advocate for food allergy laws, and an internationally competitive windsurfer.” At Ivy Coach, we have a long history of our students being personally referenced in these very kinds of admissions releases. It’s a great point of pride for us!
Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who have been admitted to be members of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2021. Go Blue Jays!
Ivy Coach is featured today in America’s oldest college newspaper, “The Dartmouth.” In the piece in Dartmouth College’s newspaper written by Joyce Lee entitled “Early decision students to comprise 47 percent of class,” the Founder of Ivy Coach, Bev Taylor, praises Dartmouth for its outreach in the last couple of years in particular to international applicants. While Dartmouth, like just about all highly selective colleges, have been trying to woo international applicants for many years, Dartmouth in particular has made strides in this department over the last few years and we’ve taken notice.
As Lee writes, “Bev Taylor, founder of college admissions consulting firm Ivy Coach, said that Dartmouth has been working to have more international applicants and has seen an increase in its application numbers over the past two years. She said that the increase in applications and their quality, as well as the diversity in the pool, was cause for praise.”
As the piece points out, more and more students are (wisely) applying Early these days too. Just think about it — 47% of Dartmouth’s incoming first-year class is already filled before the Regular Decision round. That means almost half the slots are taken. To not apply Early, to not use one’s Early card wisely is to make a costly mistake in highly selective college admissions.
As Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin states, “Over the last ten years, more students are being counseled to apply early somewhere, and college counselors say half or two-thirds of their senior class file an early decision or early action application…That’s a growing trend that’s showing up in our pool too. There’s a consciousness about early decision, as a strategy.” You bet there is.
Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who earned admission to Dartmouth via Early Decision this year…to be members of the Dartmouth College Class of 2021!
Tufts University has released its figures for the first of two rounds of Early Decision — for the Class of 2021. In all, 574 students have already been turned into elephants. We mean Jumbos. And in a refreshing change of pace, the new dean of admissions — unlike the dean at just about every other highly selective university — didn’t reference the number of applicants or even the admission rate in her post about the first round of Early Decision at Tufts.
As Tufts’ Dean of Admissions Karen Richardson writes on the Tufts admissions blog, “The first 574 Jumbos in the Class of 2021 have been revealed! They hail from 30 countries and 39 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, want to major in everything from Peace and Justice Studies to Earth and Ocean Sciences to Mechanical Engineering, and do everything from caring for younger siblings to excelling in a variety of sports to doing carpentry in their spare time. Connections are already being made through Facebook and other social media platforms. My colleagues are gearing up to begin reading even MORE applications for ED II and Regular Decision. And I’m heaving a GIANT sigh of relief.”
We love it when deans of admission call out specific applicants — not by name but through their stories. Like the student who enjoys carpentry. We’re all about the carpentry kids! That is wonderfully weird and as regular readers of our college admissions blog know well, we’re all about wonderful weirdness. In fact, our students are so often so weird that we have a long history of our students getting called out in these very kinds of press releases.
The numbers are in for the Early Decision pool at UPenn for the Class of 2021! The University of Pennsylvania has a history of filling a sizable chunk of its incoming classes through its Early Decision program. This year, for the University of Pennsylvania Class of 2021, has proven to be no exception. Of the record-breaking 6,147 students who applied Early Decision to the University of Pennsylvania this Early Decision admissions cycle, 1,354 earned admission — marking an admission rate for the Early Decision round of 22%. This bests last year’s Early Decision admission rate, which stood at 23.2%.
As Julia Bell reports in “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” “So far, Penn’s incoming class includes students from 46 states and 44 foreign countries. Penn also partnered with over 40 community-based organizations that represent underserved students, like the national nonprofit program QuestBridge and Philadelphia’s Steppingstone Scholars program. Penn typically admits around half of its total class in the Early Decision round. Last year, 55 percent of the total 2,445 spots available were filled by Early Decision applicants.”
And, marking a first in the university’s storied history, half of all students admitted to Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were female this year. Of course, the trendsetter in this department remains Dartmouth College but how cool it is that other highly selective colleges are following in Dartmouth’s wake!
The Harvard Early Action decisions are out! Run for the hills, for higher ground! The floodgates usually open the day that Harvard releases its Early Action decisions. The main office phone rings off the hook (we don’t answer it, as our voice message and the permanent Nelson Mandela banner on our homepage instructs — “Don’t call us. [We’ll email] you.”). The emails come in. The free consult forms are completed. We’re not sure why it all typically starts with Harvard but we’ve been doing this long enough to know to close our electronic devices immediately upon the release of Harvard decisions — except of course to check in with our students who’ve applied Early to Harvard. It’s like boarding a plane. “Please turn off all electronic devices.” We adhere to the instructions of flight attendants on Harvard’s decision day even if we’re not up in the air.
It never ceases to amaze us how confident so many parents are that their children will earn admission. Maybe they think their children are simply the greatest (it’s very common). Or maybe they didn’t think they needed the assistance of a private college counselor (now they know otherwise). Or maybe they just thought they had it in the bag because they were legacy applicants and Grandpa Harry had donated a building in 1964. Either which way, when the children of these parents receive word they’ve been deferred or denied, they have this awakening. And while that’s all well and good, there are literally only two weeks left before most Regular Decision applications are due after this great awakening.
Even more interesting, most parents of students who are deferred are solely focused on turning this deferral into an offer of admission when they contact us after their awakening. We always want to reawaken them like Kate Chopin. Hello parents! Your focus during the next two weeks before most Regular Decision applications are due should be on not making the same mistakes your children made with their Early Decision or Early Action schools. Duh. Of course your child wants to make the best case possible to their Early school — but that’s not nearly as time sensitive as correcting mistakes on Regular Decision applications. Because if your child didn’t get in Early, there likely were mistakes — sometimes big ones — that could very well have cost your child admission.
But alas these parents are horses led to water who do not wish to drink. They usually remain focused on that deferral — and turning it into an offer of admission (which we at Ivy Coach help students do better than anyone but it still should not be their focus in mid-December!). Sigh.
One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process. These misconceptions are put out there in the press, by high school counselors (not all high school counselors are experts in college admissions…in fact, most aren’t), by the neighbor’s third cousin once removed, and by just about everyone in between. But it’s the high school counselors that often frustrate us the most. What’s the expression? A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to many high school counselors giving advice on highly selective college admissions.
The Founder on Ivy Coach was a high school counselor on Long Island for many years and she was always so frustrated that so many of the counselors advising students were simply giving incorrect advice. But allow us to show, not tell — as we tell our students in their college admissions essays. Half Hollow Hills is a prestigious school district on Long Island. Online, they’ve published advice on the pros and cons of applying Early Decision or Early Action. In it, they write, “Some colleges will say that students have a better chance of admission if they apply early using early decision, but it really depends upon the applicant pool and how selective the college is overall. A student shouldn’t count on early decision to increase his chances of admission greatly, but if he is sure that this college is the one, it won’t hurt his chances if he lets them know that he cares enough to make this early commitment.”
Too many high school college counseling offices perpetuate falsehoods about highly selective college admissions — like completely understating the advantage of applying through Early Decision and Early Action policies.
This is false. Applying Early always helps a student’s case for admission. Just look at the clear and unequivocal data on the statistical advantage of applying through an Early policy as compared to through a Regular Decision policy. It doesn’t depend upon the applicant pool. And not only will it not “hurt” one’s chances to apply Early — it’ll vastly help one’s chances! How on earth could it hurt a student’s chances of getting in to make a binding commitment to a school, to show that school they’re loved above all other schools? Come on, Half Hollow Hills. Get it together and stop perpetuating college admissions myths. It only makes the admissions process more confusing and more stressful for students and parents alike.
What college admissions myths is your high school’s college counseling office perpetuating? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.
There’s an editorial in “The New York Times” by Frank Bruni entitled “The Plague of ‘Early Decision’” that we figured we’d discuss on the pages of our college admissions blog. We are never shy about correcting Mr. Bruni when he states inaccuracies or misleads his readers about the highly selective college admissions process, a topic he writes about extensively. And today will be no exception.
In his editorial on Early Decision, Mr. Bruni writes, “There’s plenty of evidence that applying early improves odds of admission and that the students who do so — largely to gain a competitive edge — come disproportionately from privileged backgrounds with parents and counselors who know how to game the system and can assemble the necessary test scores and references by the November deadline.” ‘Who know how to game the system?’ Mr. Bruni, how is it ‘gaming a system’ to apply by November 1st? How is it gaming a system to have one application completed two months before most other students get their acts together to first apply? Is to be organized, forward-thinking, and strategic to game a system? Please. Nonsense.
We’re actually not quite done with our rhetorical questions to Mr. Bruni. We’re just warming up! How is it gaming a system to examine clear and unequivocal data, to notice that highly selective colleges fill major portions of their incoming classes in the Early round, to see that admission rates are much more favorable if students apply by November 1st? Is making decisions based on data gaming a system? If so, Mr. Bruni, don’t bother watching baseball (Billy Beane who?). Don’t watch college football. Don’t go to a hospital if you’re in need of care and certainly don’t invest in the stock market. Our world operates on data and the suggestion that college applicants who apply Early Decision because the data suggests this is a wise move is gaming a system is just plain preposterous. Choose your words more carefully, Mr. Bruni.