Last week, Harvard University announced that it would eliminate Early Action (EA). This past Monday, Princeton University followed Harvard’s choice and became the second elite university to abolish its early admissions program. These changes have the potential to transform the existing college admissions process. Both schools will instate this policy in the next academic year. Harvard made its decision based on its belief that early admissions disadvantaged low-income minority applicants in the competitive arena of admissions to selective universities. Harvard believes that the early admissions process pressures students from low-income families to commit to a school before they are able to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges. John Anderson, Head of College Counseling, believes that rather than leveling the playing field of college application, early admission has made it more uneven. He believes that these decisions will benefit PA students as a whole. Unlike selective universities like Williams, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell, Harvard did not require students who applied and were accepted early to commit themselves to the school. However, Harvard still feels that the early admissions process discourages students from applying because they were not aware of the distinction between non-binding Early Action and binding Early Decision. According to the New York Times, Mr. Fitzsimmons, Harvard College’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, said that of the 2,124 students admitted by the school last year, 38% of the applicants were accepted in early admissions. Unlike Harvard, Princeton had a binding early decision program. According to the New York Times, Princeton University admitted approximately half of the entering freshman class from their early applicant pool. Princeton has now opted to select candidates from a single pool in hopes of giving more benefits to needy students and to reduce anxiety. Tori Anderson ’07 said, “I think it is inappropriate because Harvard is taking away students opportunities to show their interest in a particular school. Although it may give financial aid students more chances to get merit-based scholarships, schools that have a non-binding Early Action policy allow students in need of aid to seek help through the school or through outside sources. I think it is important for students to have the option to apply to a school early and let the school know that it is their number one choice.” Harvard’s decision has led officials at elite universities to carefully consider how they should react to the decision to create one single applicant pool. However, many universities, including Yale, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth have all implied that they will probably keep the current systems. These colleges will watch over Harvard closely to see what the effect of their decision will have on the competition for students. Anderson said, “I think it’s a really good decision. I think that early decision is a concept that serves some students well and some institutions well but as admissions to college has grown competitive, what colleges like Harvard have discovered is that early decision tends to inadvertently favor some groups of students over others.” Anderson said, “I’m accepting at face value what Harvard has said about its reasons for making change.” Anderson believes that Harvard’s decision will have a positive effect on PA students. According to Anderson, all the energy placed into strategizing over early admissions will disappear, eliminating the need to make such a big decision that causes Seniors to think about the end results that they have little control over. The popularity of the early admissions process grew significantly beginning in the 1990’s, as colleges attempted to increase their competitive advantage by accepting very strong candidates early in the year. The popularity of the early admissions process grew significantly beginning in the 1990’s, as colleges attempted to lock in a good share of the attractive applicants, by reserving a portion of the slots in the next class to students willing to apply early. It works for many colleges deemed to be in the elite ranks, as it ensures them their share of top-level, tuition-paying students.
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