Early Admission Policies

Early Admission Policy, Early Decision Admission Policy, Early Action Admission Policy

There is an outstanding piece by Robert Massa up on “Inside Higher Ed.” Did we mention that it’s outstanding?

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.


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  • Allison says:

    Oh but I think this position is idealistic. Massa says that ” they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students”. It, of course, is true that they don’t HAVE to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students but at this time, they do! Current stats show that. And he admits that “many low-income students are not aware of early-decision programs because they are the first generation in their family to go to college and attend high schools where counselors are responsible for 1,000 or more students each”. He then says how schools include the information on websites and brochures, but the truth stands that many underprivileged kids don’t run across this information and if they do, they don’t understand the implications of the programs because they don’t have the support network to help them. It doesn’t have to be this way…it isn’t something inherent in the early admission programs, but nevertheless, it is true right now. And to claim that there are enough test-optional schools to make up for the fact that “low-income students may not have test scores in time for early deadlines is a nonissue at those institutions.” is ridiculous. As we all know, the number of test optional schools is not high at this time. Lastly, it is not an empty hypothesis that some students cannot apply to schools ED for financial reasons….not because they won’t know how much they are likely to get from that one school, but because they will not be able to compare offers from many schools. That lack of ability to compare is an absolute truth and does impact some students’ ability to apply early. Listen, my son just applied ED to his top choice school (Duke) and got in, so I know how great that program can be, but I still see that there are issue with underprivileged kids and the lack of fairness of these programs. I think it’s better for us to acknowledge this and try to fix it rather than denying it exists.

  • Sirish says:

    The main reason early decision exists is to increase yield rate and lower acceptance rates so the schools look better in the rankings. Early decision is not beneficial for most students, the pressure and stress are even more than RD as you’re focused on just that one school. Early action is better even it’s single choice, you’re not locked in and have flexibility.

  • Foo Bar says:

    I am trying to make a decision. I am unlikely to get any merit aid at an Ivy. A Net Price calculator run shows me as ineligible. There is a reasonable chance that I will get a merit scholarship (from past experience with friends) at my local public university. That makes the financial comparison really really stark. Should I go for an ED at an Ivy? How should I decide? Thank you for providing any insights.

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