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Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Shift In Applications As Early Admission Is Cut

Published: November 28, 2007

When Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia announced that they would eliminate early admission starting this fall, many educators wondered whether the decision would alter the strategies of thousands of students seeking a spot at the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.
Now that the first round of applications in the revised landscape have been submitted, they are still wondering.
Admissions officials and high school guidance counselors had speculated that high-achieving high school seniors who once would have sought early admission to Harvard and Princeton would instead turn to other prestigious universities — including Yale, Stanford and Georgetown — that offer a nonbinding form of early admission. The reasoning was that these students would try to assure themselves a place early in the admissions cycle, but in the regular round over the winter, would still apply to Harvard and Princeton.
As expected, the number of applicants seeking nonbinding early admission, often called early action, soared at some prestigious universities, including Yale and Georgetown.
“There are only a few top schools that have early action, and we figured we would get a share of that,” said Charles A. Deacon, Georgetown’s dean of admissions. Georgetown, which received 4,562 early applications last year, had 5,980 this fall, a 31 percent increase.
But at other elite universities that offer early action, the number of applications did not increase significantly.
At Stanford, 4,574 early-action applications came in last year by the deadline of Nov. 1 — almost the same number that arrived this year.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Richard H. Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford, adding, “We’re perfectly happy with the numbers we have.”
There were about 10 percent more early-action applications this year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, compared with the 3,493 last year, said Stuart Schmill, the interim director of admissions, although the final tally has not yet been determined. But Mr. Schmill warned that it was not clear whether the increase this year was attributable to the elimination of early admission at Harvard and Princeton, because in recent years early applications to M.I.T. had been increasing anyway.
Some Ivy League universities that offer binding early admissions, including Dartmouth, Brown and Columbia, also reported modest increases in their applications this fall, though none attributed this to the elimination of early admission at other universities.
Many deans at universities offering early action think fewer students admitted early will end up enrolling. At Georgetown, the yield on early action — the proportion of students accepted who eventually attend — has been about 60 percent, Mr. Deacon said. This year, he said, it could decline to 50 percent.
Yale officials also said it will be harder this year to predict how many applicants offered early admission will choose to be freshmen next fall. “We’re kind of puzzling over that,” said Jeffrey Brenzel, Yale’s dean of admissions.
The entire admissions picture at Yale this year is kind of a puzzle, too. Yale’s early-action applications grew to 4,820 this year, from 3,541 last year, seemingly a 36 percent increase. But early applications to Yale declined significantly last year, compared with the previous year. So the number this year, compared with 2005, when there were 4,084 early applications, is really an 18 percent increase.
Some educators think the decline at Yale a year ago was caused by the news, the previous spring, that the university had become the first Ivy League school to admit fewer than 10 percent of its applicants in its early and regular rounds combined. But Mr. Brenzel does not accept that theory. Nor does he feel ready to explain the increase this year. “I resist the temptation to speculate,” he said, “because we really don’t know.”


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