January 9, 2007
Posted by Sam Jackson
As covered by the Yale Daily News, Yale University has elected to continue its Early Action program.I'm not sure I like their reasoning.
The decision was made by weighing the benefits of joining Harvard, Princeton, UVA etc. vs. sticking it out with MIT and Stanford (who both vowed to keep Early). Opinions of those watching the decision were rather mixed (Decision to keep early action earns mixed response, YDN).
The University made the right strategic decision to maintain its early option after Harvard and Princeton discontinued theirs, said Chuck Hughes, president of the college admissions counseling firm Road to College and a senior admissions officer at Harvard from 1995 to 2000. Many of the students who would have applied early to Harvard or Princeton will likely apply to Yale, said Hughes, who predicted that Yale will see a 25 to 50 percent increase in early applications next year.
Hmm, Chuck makes it sound like Yale was just looking out for #1. What about all those poor students who didn't have the resources or know-how to apply early, the ones that Harvard and Princeton claim to be helping?
"This provision provides students the option of expressing a preference for Yale, while freeing them from the pressures associated with binding early decision programs," he [Brenzel] said.
Because students admitted under early action are not required to accept the school's offer until May, Brenzel said, applicants from low-income families are able to compare financial aid offers before making a decision about where to go to school. Since switching from early decision to early action in 2002, Yale has seen an increase in the number of financial aid students who apply early, Levin said. [YDN]
On the first point, couldn't there just be some sort of standardized "first preference" checkbox on the common application? A standardized agreement which says: this school is my first choice school. Legally the signer would be obliged to send this form to only one school, but it would be completely nonbinding (assuming this is a new fantasy world where early programs do not exist). On the second point, might it not see a greater still increase if it dropped its EA entirely? I'm not really feeling convinced that Yale has the high ground when talking about whats best for applicants, particularly lower-income applicants.
An interesting problem that is on many people's minds here at Exeter: the very best applicants poaching spots from multiple schools if they apply regular everywhere and thereby creating admissions chaos. I've had more than a few people, after congratulating me, express their happiness that I won't be competing with them for slots at other schools. I'm not even the archetypal 'spot-stealing' student, either--it's just one fewer competitor.
In conversations with Yale admissions officers, high school counselors and administrators also expressed concern that eliminating early admissions might lead to more competitive students receiving multiple offers from top- and second-tier schools that would otherwise have gone to other students, Levin said. [YDN]
Am I happy that I had an Early Action acceptance last month? Absolutely. All the same, I don't feel that the system can't be improved here somehow. My real question, which I haven't seen adequately answered by anyone at Harvard or Princeton or UVA or elsewhere, is just how eliminating early programs reduces college stress. 'Starting the process early' isn't a big concern, since it's just one application. If anything, starting the process early with just one school is a good way of 'easing in' to the college admissions process. There are some stress-relieving factors that would come up if everyone had only regular decision, but I think that the looming fears and threats of super-applicants applying to more and more schools might counterbalance that relief--and then some.