Reinstatement Of Early Decision At Harvard And Princeton Affects Selective Colleges

December 1, 2011

Admissions office signThe early applicant pools of some Ivy League and selective colleges have dropped this year, and many are attributing the decrease to Harvard and Princeton's decision to reinstate their early action programs.

Four years ago, Princeton and Harvard eliminated their early action programs, which they felt favored more affluent students. "Early programs help find students who are better prepared," to apply, explained Top Colleges educational consultant Steven Goodman, who was quoted by The Daily Pennsylvanian. Wealthy students, he noted, tend to be better prepared.

But this fall, Harvard and Princeton reversed their decision. As a result, Harvard received 4,245 early applications and Princeton received 3,547. Applications consequently dropped at some of the nation's most selective colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Stanford and Yale. At Penn, the pool decreased from last year by 0.98 percent, while MIT's dropped 4.72 percent. Columbia's fell 5.68 percent; Stanford's dropped 0.83 percent and Yale's decreased 18.01 percent.

Michele Hernandez, president of Hernandez College Consulting, pointed out that Harvard and Princeton's reinstatement of early decision programs clearly affected many institutions. "When Harvard and Princeton do something, it causes huge changes," she told The Dartmouth. "Applicants are now spread over more schools, with Harvard and Princeton."

At Dartmouth, applications increased by 2.6 percent, indicating a slowdown after a 12 percent increase from the year before. "My sense is that some students who may have been early at Dartmouth in a prior year thought, 'Since [the Harvard and Princeton early action programs] are an option, let me give that a try, and if it doesn't work out apply to other schools later on," said Maria Laskaris, Dartmouth's dean of admissions and financial aid, in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Some noted that the decrease in early applications is positive because it shows that students are weighing their restricted application choices carefully. "In many of these cases, students are being more serious about their application choices, while others are thinking about where they will have the best odds of getting in," said John Reider, a college guidance counselor at San Francisco University High School who was interviewed by the Yale Daily News. "Yale should be pleased that they are not wasting time on applicants who don't really want to go there. This is a win for everyone--I don't think anybody should think [the drop in applications] is a sign of weakness for Yale or anything negative."

As with Dartmouth, some Ivy League colleges saw slight gains in early applications, including Cornell and Brown Universities. More dramatic increases were seen at Duke University and the University of Chicago, where applications increased by 23 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"Drop in Early Apps at Penn, Peers May Be Tied to Harvard and Princeton," thedp.com, November 27, 2011, Rachel Finkel

"Early App. Trends Vary Across Ivies," thedartmouth.com, November 28, 2011, Taha Adib

"Yale's Early App Program Remains Competitive," yaledailynews.com, November 28, 2011, Andrew Giambrone

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