Nov 27, 2009

Early Applications On the Rise At Many Colleges and Universities

Despite trends suggesting a move away from early admissions spearheaded by several name universities including UVA, Harvard, and Princeton, this year’s applicant pool appears determined to get a few decisions in hand before the start of the New Year. Neither the economic implications of applying early nor the organization necessary to get paperwork complete on time is deterring the Class of 2014 in a quest to get things nailed down sooner rather than later.

And the numbers are startling. Binding Early Decision (ED) applications to Duke University are up 32 percent, increasing from the previous record of 1589 in 2001 to more than 2000 applications by November 2nd of this year. Interestingly, most of the Duke applications are coming from California, New Jersey, Virginia, and from international students.

Locally, George Washington University saw ED I applicants rise by 24 percent, AU's early decision applications went up by 46 percent, and the College of William and Mary earlies increased by 13 percent. Rice University received 26 percent more ED applications, while ED applications to Grinnell College in Iowa rose by 10 percent, following a similar increase the year before. Bowdoin and NYU increased by 5 percent; Davidson and Stanford were up by 4 percent; Smith College rose by 6 percent; Dartmouth received 3 percent more ED applications; and Pomona went up by 2 percent.

Schools with non-binding Early Action (EA) policies also saw an increase in the number of applications received this year. Although relatively small in absolute numbers, Lawrence University's EA applications went up by 50 percent—possibly the result of a more aggressive recruitment campaign this fall. Notre Dame's EA applications increased by 13.5 percent while High Point's combined EA/ED pool rose by 32 percent over 2008.

Not every college experienced increases in ED or EA applications. Yale University’s numbers decreased by 5.2 percent from 2008’s record-breaking year. Haverford and Williams also received slightly fewer applications for early admissions.

Students prepared to apply early sometimes can benefit in the admissions race, as a number of colleges and universities appear to give advantage to applicants willing to commit early and/or get applications in the mail before the first of the year. To illustrate, US News and World Report compiled two lists, one where early action and the other where early decision applications really pay off—sometimes increasing odds by over 50 percent. For example, the ED acceptance rate at American University was 75.1 percent last year while the overall acceptance rate was only 52.9 percent. At GW, ED acceptance was 67 percent and overall was 37 percent, and William and Mary's 2009 ED acceptance at 53.9 percent clearly beats the 34.1 percent rate overall.

Not every student should apply early, especially when first semester senior year grades could be important factors in making a case for admission. Other students hold back out of a desire to compare financial aid packages. While financial aid concerns suggest a barrier for low-income students applying Early Decision, the ability to lock in a college within the first few months of senior year is one more advantage for students for whom money is no object.

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