Reliance on Early Decision Applicants

The Ivy League colleges with Early Decision policies did rely more heavily on their Early pools after the 2008 recession than before. But we’re not so sure the recession led to a spike in these figures.

In a piece in yesterday’s New York Times, journalist Jeffrey Selingo, fresh out with a new book on highly selective college admissions, makes the argument in said book that colleges with Early Decision policies relied more heavily on their ED applicant pools in the wake of the 2008 recession than they did previously. Selingo draws on this trend as he makes the argument that colleges with ED policies will rely more heavily on their ED pools this cycle — during the COVID-19 pandemic — than they have in recent years. It’s an interesting forecast. It’s also one we absolutely agree with when it comes to our nation’s elite college this year. We anticipate these schools are absolutely going to rely more heavily on their Early pools this year than ever before. But since it’s been a while since the 2008 recession, we decided to fact check his claim that colleges with ED policies relied more heavily on their Early pools in the wake of that recession. We decided to see if his claim held true at the Ivy League schools.

Early Decision Stats at Ivy League Schools Around 2008

After a deep dive through the best source of Ivy League admissions statistics anywhere — the statistics we’ve aggregated for years on our very website — our fact check proves Mr. Selingo right — though, unless we’re mistaken, the correlation isn’t quite as clear as he makes it out to be. The Class of 2011 applied in 2006-2007. As examples, that year, Brown filled 35.2% of its seats with Early admits. Columbia filled 44% of its seats, Dartmouth 36.2%, UPenn 48.3%, and Princeton 48%. The Class of 2012 applied in 2007-2008. That year, Brown filled 37.6% of seats with Early admits, Columbia 44.2%, Dartmouth 36.7%, and UPenn 47.8%. The Class of 2013 applied in 2008-2009. That year, Brown filled 37.4% of seats with ED admits, Columbia 45.9%, Cornell 39.7%, Dartmouth 35%, and UPenn 48.2%. The Class of 2014 applied in 2009-2010. That year, Brown filled 38.1% of its class with ED admits, Columbia 45.4%, Cornell 37.3%, Dartmouth 42.3%, and UPenn 49.6%.

The Numbers Went Up, But Not in a Major Way

To summarize, Brown filled 35.2% and 37.6% of seats with ED admits in the two years leading up to the recession and 37.4% and 38.1% in the two years after. Columbia filled 44% and 44.2% of its seats with ED admits in the two years leading up to the recession and 45.9% and 45.4% in the two years that followed. Dartmouth filled 36.2% and 36.7% of its seats with ED admits in the two years leading up to the recession and 35% and 42.3% in the two years that followed. UPenn filled 48.3% and 47.8% of its class with ED admits in the two years before the recession and 48.2% and 49.6% in the two years that followed.

We Recognize the Argument Was Made for All ED Pools, Not Only at the Ivies

Keep in mind that we recognize Mr. Selingo’s argument applied to colleges — not only Ivy League colleges. But our analysis of the Ivy League admissions statistics for those years around the 2008 recession prove Mr. Selingo right in suggesting these schools more heavily relied on their ED pools after the recession than they did before. But we’d also like to point out that this was the overall trend before the recession and it’s not like there was this major spike in the percentage of the incoming classes these schools filled with ED admits that corresponded with the collapse of the banks.

 
 

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