Higher admission rate of early college applicants fuels controversy
High school seniors who apply to college early -- through "Early Decision" or "Early Action" programs with fall deadlines -- are more likely to receive admission letters than those who apply using the regular deadlines and processes at more than 80 percent of the colleges that report such statistics.
And the admissions advantage is big, according to U.S.News & World Report's analysis of the 233 colleges that report separate rates for their early admission programs. In 2009, the last year for which complete data is available, the typical college's early acceptance rate was 15 percentage points higher than its rate for those who sent their applications in by the standard deadlines, which are usually in December or January. In some cases, however, such as the University of Arkansas and SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, more than 80 percent of early applicants gained admission, compared to less than a third of the regular applicants.
Of course, many colleges insist that the early admission rates only appear higher because better students apply early, and that those students would win admissions if they applied in the regular pool. But some colleges say they do give preferences to early applicants. And the disparities in admissions rates may be key reasons that Dartmouth College, Duke University, MIT, and many other colleges reported record numbers of early applications this year.
The differences in the admission rates will also likely continue to fuel a debate over whether early admissions programs are good for students.
In 2006, Harvard University stopped its early admissions program after a 2003 book by some of its faculty showed that wealthy and privileged students benefited the most from early admissions programs. A research team led by Christopher Avery, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, found that, for example, students who applied early got less financial aid.
A growing number of colleges, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, and Harvard, match financial aid offers from competing schools. But a high school senior who applies through an "Early Decision" program has to promise to attend that school, and so doesn't have any competing financial aid offers. (In contrast, "Early Action" admission programs give students early answers but allow them to try to get competing offers.) That's why students who need financial aid are usually counseled to apply to several schools using the regular process, and compare several aid offers before making a commitment.
A few colleges, including the University of Virginia, followed Harvard's lead and eliminated their "Early Decision" programs. But in November 2010, UVA announced it would start an "Early Action" application program for the fall of 2011, saying it was responding to students' demands for earlier decisions while still providing opportunities to compare colleges and price tags. Greg Roberts, UVA's dean of admissions, insists early applicants to UVA won't have an edge. "We strongly believe that there should be no strategic advantage to applying early action," he says.
Although Harvard has reported record numbers of applicants for the last several years, it has announced it is evaluating its no-early-applications policy.
Some college admissions officers who currently run "Early Action" programs say the admissions disparity for early applicants is even higher than the published numbers indicate. These statistics only count the early applicants who are accepted early. Many colleges defer decisions on some early applicants, accepting them after the deadline for being counted as early admissions.
The University of Vermont, for example, reported that it initially accepted just 62 percent of the high school class of 2009 who applied through its "Early Action" program, which allows students to get an early answer, but doesn't require them to make an immediate commitment to the school. That makes UVM's early admission program look tougher than its standard application process, which generally admits about 72 percent of applicants. But Director of Admissions Beth A. Wiser says her staff defers dozens of early applicants to give them another chance at admission during the regular process. Fully 77 percent of all early applicants eventually got accepted last year, she says.
She insists, however, that edge only reflects the stronger qualifications of the students who are so well organized that they can complete their applications early. "We apply the same admission criteria [to all applicants]", she says.
Available on Amazon.com:
- The Achilles Heel of American Education: Class Inequality
- Early Applicants More Likely to Gain College Admission
- 10 Paying College Jobs That Look Good on Your Resume
- In Defense of the Liberal Arts
- Where to Start if You Want to Be a Rhodes Scholar
- Executives and Policymakers Want More Technology in Classrooms
- M.B.A. Programs Are Biting Apple's iPad
- How the Government Overestimates Your Ability to Pay for College
- 4 Steps to Maximize Your College Savings
- Be on the Alert for Scholarship Scams
- Save on College Visits
- College Graduates Need to Handle Student Loans Wisely
- Enhancing U.S. Education and Competitiveness
- Big Changes to College Admissions
- StraighterLine Offers Cheap College Credits Online
- The Nonprofit Approach to Online Education
- Here Come $60,000-A-Year Colleges
- Federal Grants and Tax Breaks Help Reduce Tuition Pain
- 4 Steps to Get Free Money in Your College Savings Account
- Rebate Deals Make It Easier to Save for College
- Curtailing Dropouts at Online Universities
- Obama Touts Community Colleges Benefits
- Online Universities: 5 Tips Before You Pursue a Degree
- Online Universities: Online Degrees Gain Respect
- New Analysis Suggests Which Colleges Help Disadvantaged Students
- Government Credit Standards Low For College Parent Loans
- How Do I Get a Parent PLUS Loan?
- Education and Wealth: Strongest Predictors of a Long Life
- Troubled Times: When Mark Zuckerberg's Generosity Is Not Good Enough
- The Great Recession's Toll on Higher Education
- Online Degrees: Learn More Before You Enroll
- Are Online College Courses All That?
- Online Education in the Ivy League
- Some Top International Colleges Offer Free Tuition
- Private Colleges Adopt Car Lot Strategy
- Law School: Rising Demand and Rising Tuition
- How to Eat Healthier at the College Dining Hall
- Recent Grads Reveal Their College Regrets
- Pimp My College Dorm Room!
- Should I Drop This Class?
- Got Homework Overload?
- College Loan Repayment List Reveals Surprises
- Getting into Law School: University of Miami School of Law
- An Evening with Arne Duncan
- The Power of Being Multilingual
- A Revolutionary New Way to Learn
- Frank Assessment of Teacher Performance Not Pleasant but Useful
- How Not to be a Fat Freshman
- Smart Spending and Saving for College Students
- Save Time and Money on School Lunches
- Stretch Your Back-to-school Shopping Dollars
- Education Dollars Well Spent: Liberal Arts Education
- Smart Money Looks Elsewhere: Liberal Arts Education
- Is College Worth It?: Soaring Costs Complicate the Decision
- Reaching College or University of Your Dreams is a Four-Year Process
- Getting into College: Start Sharpening Analytical Skills Early
- Best Value Colleges Give Big Scholarships & Deep Discounts
- The Great College Scholarship Scramble
- Out of State College Tuition at In-State Rates
- The Student Loan Without the Regret
- Campus Orientation Programs Aim to Ease Transition
- Rocketing Past the College Admissions Blunders
- The Right Way to Pitch Yourself to a College
- Narrowing Your College Choices
- Turning Two Years at Community College Into Four
- Different Paths to a College Degree
- Lure of the Gap Year Between High School and College
- Twitter Goes to College
- Standardized Tests Myths: The Truth About the SAT & ACT
- 5 Tips to Getting Along With Your Roommate
- Break That Hovering Habit Early
- Back-to-School Shoppers Hunt for Deals
- Green Your Back-to-School Shopping
- Houston Charter School Sends All its Grads to Four-Year Colleges
- Colleges Joining Effort to Turn Around Skyrocketing Obesity Rates
- College Student Resource Directory
- 5 Tips to Getting Along With Your Roommate
- How Do You Rank as a Roommate?
- New Sites Empower Students to Build Their Own Scholarships
- Why Physician Assistant School May be Right for You
- Getting Back to the College Mindset
- Teaching vs. Teachers Unions
- Girl World Back-to-school Checklist
- Just a Little Food for Thought
- Business Schools Add New Entrepreneur Programs for MBA Students
- Unique MBA Programs Build Leadership Skills
- Tips to Increase Your Odds of Getting a Job at College
- Get Career Goals in Gear This Summer
- Roommate Rifts and Resolutions
- How Changes to the GMAT Will Affect You
- Back to School Countdown
- Alternative Summer Plans for College Students
- Job Market Strategies for Recent Graduates
- Surviving Summer College Classes
- Avoid Getting Stupid This Summer
- 7 Tips for LSAT Test Success
- 6 Tips for GMAT Test Success
- 9 Tips for SAT Test Success
- 6 Tips for ACT Test Success
- Student-tested Tips to Ace Your Final Exams
- Taking The Edge Off Exam Stress
- 5 Social Media Tools for College Students
- 5 Do's and Don'ts for College Students Using Social Media
- Guide to Great Educational Websites for Kids
- Study Skills - Staying Motivated to Study
- Nail That Job Interview
- 10 Cool Gadget Gifts for Grads
- A Lean Mean Stay-fit Exercise Routine
- Smooth Moves to Make Studying More Comfortable
- Inside Scoop on Working in Study Groups
Copyright © 2010 U.S. News & World Report. All rights reserved.