There was an article yesterday in “The Dartmouth Review,” the conservative student publication at Dartmouth College once led by the likes of Laura Ingraham and Dinish D’Souza (they were once engaged) that essentially serves as a defense of Early Decision. Of course, the most often cited case against the merits of Early Decision policies at universities across America is that such policies favor the privileged. As Devon Kurtz writes for “The Dartmouth Review,” “The most often discussed issue with early-decision is that it notoriously favors students from prep schools, the Northeast, athletically competitive high schools, and wealthier backgrounds, as well as students with parents who are alumni. Early-decision, and its ‘benefit’ of a higher acceptance rate, seems to favor the already privileged students, while lower income students from adverse backgrounds and lower tier high schools battle it out in the fiercely competitive regular decision round of admission.”
But this, of course, is a fallacy. Admissions officers at highly selective colleges like Dartmouth College are seeking underprivileged students in the Early Decision round just as they’re looking for them in the Regular Decision round. It’s not like in the months of November and December, first-generation college applicants and students from low-income families aren’t of interest to admissions officers — that their interest only peaks in January, February, and March. Admissions officers covet these students in Early Decision just as they do in Regular Decision and any suggestion otherwise is, well, ridiculous. Are there a lot of recruited athletes in the Early Decision round? Are there a lot of legacies? You bet. But there are privileged students in the Regular Decision round too and this doesn’t change the fact that colleges are always, always searching for geographic diversity, ethnic diversity, socio-economic diversity…you name it.
If the argument is that not enough underprivileged students apply in the Early round, well, that’s not a knock on the policy. That just means that awareness needs to be raised about the benefits of applying Early — including the significantly higher acceptance rates. So many low-income students choose not to apply Early because they don’t know of these benefits, because they lack strong college counseling, because they’re under the misimpression that there’s this great benefit in the Regular Decision round that you can weigh various financial aid offers. It’s a misimpression because you can figure out what kind of financial aid you’re going to receive from a given institution before you even apply — through the Net Price Calculator. So why do you need to wait to weigh financial aid offers? The argument is unsound.
And so is the argument that Early decision favors the wealthy. As Kurtz writes, “The benefits of early-decision speak for themselves: lower acceptance rates, more loyal students, higher four-year retention rate, lower transfer acceptance rate.” Early Decision doesn’t favor the wealthy. It favors the students who are willing to commit. It favors the students who are willing to show their love for a university.