Nov 10, 2010

Is There An Advantage to Applying Early?

According to findings from the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), there is not only an advantage to applying early, but the advantage is growing as colleges and universities seek methods of controlling student enrollment in the wake of an explosion of electronic applications submitted to their institutions.

In the 2010 State of College Admission, NACAC defines Early Decision (ED) as the application process in which students make commitments to first-choice institutions where, “if admitted, they definitely will enroll.” Early Action (EA) is the process in which students “make an application of preference and receive a decision well in advance of the institution’s regular response date.” Variations on the theme exist, but for NACAC’s purposes they represent too few colleges to study separately.

For the 2009 admissions cycle, NACAC found that 65 percent of colleges with Early Decision policies reported increases in the number of ED applicants accepted. This is as compared with 43 percent in 2008 and 36 percent in 2007. And nearly three-quarters of colleges with Early Action policies reported increases in both EA applications and EA admits.

As in previous years, colleges with Early Decision reported a higher acceptance rate for ED (70 percent vs. 55 percent overall). The result is a growing gap between acceptance rates—from 8 percentage points (61 percent vs. 53 percent) in 2006 to 15 percentage points during the last admissions cycle.

Though employed by a minority of institutions in the US, admissions strategies like Early Decision (used by 18 percent of respondents) and Early Action (used by 24 percent) are “fixtures of the college admission landscape” likely resulting from “the presence of such policies at America’s most selective colleges and universities.”

NACAC notes that private colleges are more than twice as likely as public institutions to offer ED, while almost half of the respondents accepting fewer than 50 percent of applicants reported having ED policies in place.

It’s no wonder, given that the average yield rate (the percent of students accepting an invitation to enroll) at ED colleges was 86 percent as opposed to 33 percent overall. The difference in yield rate at EA colleges (30 percent vs. 28 percent overall) is less compelling.

And if early returns are any indication, students are certainly aware of and responding to the advantage. The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that the University of Pennsylvania received 17 percent more ED applications this year, bringing the total to approximately 4,500—up from 3,851 a year ago. Penn typically fills half of the incoming freshman class with ED applicants by accepting about 1,200 students all of whom have expressed undying loyalty to the “red and blue.”

Locally, the “early” advantage varies. George Washington accepted 47 percent of their binding Early Decision applicants last year, and 37 percent overall. American accepted 73 percent of the ED candidates, and 53 percent overall.

At James Madison University, the EA edge was minimal (64 percent vs. 61 percent), but at Johns Hopkins the ED advantage was huge (50 percent vs. 27 percent). The College of William and Mary accepted 53 percent from its ED pool and 34 percent of the total, while the University of Richmond took 69 percent of the ED applicants and 39 percent overall.

While colleges insist that the advantage rests with the quality of early applicants—more organized and with strong academic records through the end of junior year—these numbers should certainly be food for thought for those high school seniors still weighing what options continue to be open to them.

This is the 3rd in a series of reports on NACAC's State of College Admission.

1 comment:

  1. the quality of the applicant pool may differ but there is also a disproportionately higher percentage of athletes, legacy, and other special applicants with higher acceptance rates that apply during early. factoring all these out may leave very little real advantage to applying early.