More Colleges Should Switch to Early Decision
One of the core purposes of our college admissions blog is to demystify the highly selective college admissions process. When colleges tout need-blind admissions policies, we debunk this myth since the vast majority of America’s elite colleges are not actually need-blind — they’re need-aware. When high school counselors suggest that AP Statistics is a great alternative course to take in lieu of BC Calculus, we tell it like it is: elite colleges do not consider statistics to be math and they absolutely want to see that BC Calculus course on a high school transcript — and, in many cases, beyond. In debunking myths and speaking truth to power, it is out hope to make the entire highly selective college admissions process less stressful for all. And so, today, we’d like to propose a way that our nation’s elite colleges can make the process less stressful for all since it’s a responsibility they too should bear.
Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford all have Single Choice Early Action policies. Under their Single Choice Early Action policies, students are not allowed to apply to any schools under binding Early Decision policies. They’re also not allowed to apply to any schools under Early Action policies — unless the school is a public university, like the University of Michigan. If a student applies Single Choice Early Action to Harvard, that student cannot apply to any other Ivy League school in the Early round — nor can they apply to schools like Duke, UChicago, Stanford, MIT, etc. And we take no issue with any of these restrictions.
But if a student is applying Single Choice Early Action to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford, shouldn’t they have to go if admitted? Shouldn’t these admitted students not then be allowed to apply to all of the other Ivies and more in the Regular Decision round? We can’t tell you how many students we’ve had over the years who have earned admission to Harvard or Stanford in the Early round who then wish to apply to lots of other schools in the Regular Decision round. And why? Simply to collect feathers for their caps. Rest assured, we of course talk our students out of making such a decision since they’d have no intention of actually attending any schools that offered them admission in the RD round and would only be taking away slots from other deserving students. But imagine all the students who don’t work with us — there may not be anybody to convince these students not to apply to all these other schools.
If Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford were to switch to Early Decision policies, it would eliminate these feather-for-cap collectors. These feather-for-cap collectors only make the process more stressful for all by taking away slots from others; they increase application figures and invariably lower admission rates. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford will make the argument that switching to binding Early Decision policies will deter low-income students, underrepresented minority students, first-generation college students, and the like from applying Early but we beg to differ. And if these schools really felt that way, then perhaps a compromise would be to not fill up such a big percentage of their incoming classes with Early applicants because so long as they do, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths and they know it.
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