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High School Seniors Applying For Early Decision

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
November 6, 2009

Early decision--which allows students to apply early to college on condition that they must commit to be enrolled in that particular school if accepted--is becoming an increasingly popular choice for high school seniors.

Early decision applications increased by 33 percent at Duke University, reports the Duke Chronicle. The total number of applications, which is more than 2,000, broke the record of 1,589 that was set in 2001.

"I think if anybody had said, 'This fall, you'll see a 33 percent increase in applications. . .' I think nobody would have thought that was a reasonable prediction," said Christoph Guttentag, the university's dean of undergraduate admissions. He noted that admissions officers emphasized that the acceptance rate is higher for early decision applicants.

"I think that people got the message that in fact. . .we're really working to make Duke affordable from a wide range of economic backgrounds," he remarked. "This has probably sunk in some more than in the past."

Likewise, Dartmouth College saw a rise in the number of early decision applications, although not quite so dramatic: The school received more than 1,600 applications, up from 1,551 last year-about a 3 percent increase. Students admitted under early decision are expected to make up about one third of the class that begins college in fall 2010.

"The early decision program allows us to build a strong base for the incoming class," said Maria Laskaris, dean of admissions and financial aid in a press release, "and for students who are admitted, it helps lessen the stress during the senior year of high school."

Both Duke and Dartmouth offer generous financial aid, a factor which likely contributed to the increase in early decision applications. Duke requires no parental contribution from families with incomes of less than $60,000, and Dartmouth offers free tuition to undergraduates whose families earn incomes below $75,000.

But often students apply early so they have a better chance of attending their dream schools. Annapolis, Maryland's The Capital reports that according to Woody Johnston, a counselor at Severn School in Severna Park, 80 percent of the current high school seniors submitted early decision applications this year.

Lillian Cartwright, a senior at Severn, is one such example: She submitted an early application to Yale under "restrictive" early action--meaning that the application is non-binding but she may not apply early to any other colleges. Even though agreeing to do so was risky, Cartwright decided to apply after hearing that Yale accepts 17 percent of its early applicants.

Yet The New York Times cautions that students should think carefully before agreeing to any sort of binding agreement. In particular, seniors should make sure their early decision college choice is realistic, affordable, and the one they would most like to attend.

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