The Insecurity of Elite Colleges

Elite Colleges, Insecure Elite Colleges, Insecurity of Universities
Our nation’s elite colleges generally feel insecure in the early days of each admissions cycle (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Want to understand why our nation’s elite colleges favor Early applicants over Regular Decision applicants? Want to understand why, say, the University of Pennsylvania admitted 18% of Early Decision candidates while it accepted only 5.5% of Regular Decision candidates? Or why Princeton University admitted 13.9% of Early Action candidates while it accepted only 4.2% of Regular Decision candidates? If you’re interested in this reasoning, we would argue that much of the disparity in the admissions statistics — between the Early and Regular rounds of admission — traces to psychology. Yes, psychology.

Elite Colleges Feel More Secure As Applications Come In

You see, when elite colleges admit students in the Early round of admissions, they do so not knowing how many students will ultimately choose to apply to these institutions in the Regular Decision round. They also admit students in the Early round not knowing the quality of the Regular Decision applicant pools. One of the principle rules that ground most good businesses — regardless of industry — can be summed up in one sentence: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So why do our elite colleges admit a higher percentage of Early applicants than Regular Decision applicants? Because they’re insecure; they don’t have a good sense of their Regular Decision pools and with insecurity comes leniency…And because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Students Should Apply Early Because Colleges Are More Insecure in the Early Round

So what do our readers think when they come across a line like this in an article penned by Courtney Rubin for US News & World Report entitled “How to Know if You Should Apply to College Early“?: “‘Honestly, we don’t look at early decision applications any differently than we do regular ones,’ says Giselle Martin, Emory’s associate dean of admission.” Well, we’ll tell them what to think. Emory University cares about Demonstrated Interest. Heck, we’d argue it was Emory that invented Demonstrated Interest (measuring an applicant’s interest in attending the school). So you bet Emory cares about Demonstrated Interest. And applying Early Decision is a key way of demonstrating interest in a school…wouldn’t our readers say? Finally, even if Ms. Martin told it like it is, even if they didn’t “look at early decision applications and differently than we do regular ones,” what she doesn’t say is that they feel differently about applicants during the Early round as compared to the Regular round — they feel more insecure. And it all traces to the insecurity of these colleges.

 
 

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