College Admissions

Archive for December, 2010

Early Application Update

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

A number of colleges have seen record numbers of early applications this year. At some highly selective schools, more early applications resulted in lower admit rates. Stanford’s early action applications were up 6.5 percent to a record 5,929 applications. The admit rate fell from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent, with 754 students admitted and 500 deferred. Georgetown’s early action applications were up nine percent, with the admit rate falling two percent, from 19.1 to 16.9 percent. Early action applications were up 13 percent at MIT, 18 percent at University of Chicago, and 25 percent at Villanova. Yale held relatively steady, with just four fewer early action applications this year.

Schools that offer the binding early decision plan also saw substantial increases in applications. University of Pennsylvania had an 18 percent increase in early decision applications this year, and the admit rate dropped from 31 to 26 percent. Duke received 13 percent more early decision applications. Northwestern had a whopping 26 percent increase and Vanderbilt’s early decision applications were up more than 30 percent. While these elite schools promise to meet full financial need, even schools that do not guarantee to meet full need, like Brandeis and George Washington, received more early decision applications. But not all early decision schools saw their numbers go up. Brown and Cornell had small decreases in their early decision applications.

There are several likely reasons for the increasing popularity of early admission programs. Early action applicants can have an acceptance before winter break, which lowers stress. Early decision acceptance rates are higher at some colleges, which may fill more than a third of the freshman class early. Students who are hoping to get into the most selective schools feel pressure to apply early, even before they have thoroughly researched colleges, because they don’t want to miss out on the admissions edge they could get by applying early decision. Families see a diploma from an elite school as job insurance, and are often willing to commit to one of these expensive schools. More generous financial aid policies at the most selective schools enable needy students to apply without worrying about comparing financial aid packages. 

There are benefits for colleges too. Admissions officers lock in a healthy percentage of the freshman class and don’t risk losing top students to other colleges. They see students who apply early decision as excited about attending the college and likely to contribute to campus life.

But there are other reasons for the high ED admit rates, including the fact that the early decision applicant pool is stronger. These are the most motivated students, who often have strong transcripts and test scores as well as impressive extracurricular accomplishments. Recruited athletes are also in the early pool, and there may be a good number of legacy applicants, and both of these groups can boost acceptance rates. 

While applying ED can be helpful, it does not guarantee that you will have better prospects for admission. Sometimes it makes more sense to take the SAT or ACT one last time, earn top grades during fall semester and apply regular decision.

Juniors who want to apply early should start preparing now. That includes setting up a standardized testing schedule and earning the best possible grades this year. Winter break is a good time to think about what you want in a college and to research the schools that seem interesting. Once you have a list of schools that you would like to visit, you can plan a college tour for spring break. If you find one school that you love, you will be ready to apply early.