Feb 24, 2011

Harvard and Princeton Follow UVa’s Lead and Reinstate Early Action

In separate releases this morning, Harvard followed by Princeton announced a return to non-binding early action admissions plans for students applying next fall. These policy changes come on the heels of UVa’s decision in November to discontinue an experiment with a “single admission” program begun in 2007.

While Harvard expressed dissatisfaction with administrative headaches associated with the single review policy and appeared ready to follow UVa’s lead, Princeton repeatedly expressed a commitment to remain with a program originally deemed beneficial to low-income students.

“It works for us,” commented Robyn Kent, Princeton’s associate dean of admission, in response to questions concerning the future of the single admission program. “President Tilghman is very committed to single review, and we have no plans to change our current application procedures.”

But that was last summer and once Harvard began rocking the boat earlier this year, Princeton evidently decided not to be left alone with a program that encouraged late submission of applications and hasn’t shown any particular advantage for minority or low-income applicants.

“We looked carefully at trends in Harvard admissions these past years and saw that many highly talented students, including some of the best-prepared low income and underrepresented minority students, were choosing programs with an early-action option, and therefore were missing out on the opportunity to consider Harvard,” said Dean Michael Smith of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

And it didn’t help that other colleges simply weren’t interested in dropping early admission policies which serve to fill spots in the incoming class with well-organized and committed students.

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said, “…in eliminating our early program four years ago, we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same and they haven’t. One consequence is that some students who really want to make their college decision as early as possible in their senior year apply to other schools early, even if their first choice is Princeton.”

Harvard and Princeton will join Stanford and Yale with "restrictive" or “single-choice” early action policies. Students who apply early to any of these schools cannot apply early elsewhere. But similar to other early action programs, students may also consider "regular" admissions offers and will not be required to decide until May 1st of the following year.

UVa has elected to go in a slightly different direction and will offer a more traditional early action option. Students will be free to submit other non-binding early action applications and will also have the freedom to choose among all offers of admission.

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