Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Harvard reviewing its decision to abolish early admissions

The Crimson reports: Harvard Examining Early Admissions--College reviews decision to eliminate early admissions

"The College is reevaluating its three-year-old decision to eliminate early admissions, Harvard’s top admissions official acknowledged yesterday.
"Fitzsimmons’ comments came in response to an announcement by the University of Virginia that it plans to offer a new Early Action option to students applying next year.

"In Sept. 2006, Harvard announced that it would no longer offer its Early Action program, which allowed high-school seniors to receive an admissions decision in December but did not mandate that they attend if accepted. Within the month, Princeton and Virginia followed suit, cancelling their Early Decision programs, which had similar timing but bound accepted students to attend, in favor of a single admissions notification date.

"The three schools have jointly conducted 18-city recruiting tours since the announcement of the decision, and some officials acknowledged at the time that they hoped other top universities would follow suit in eliminating early admissions programs.

"All three schools said at the time that early admissions programs were unfavorable to less affluent students, who sometimes forgo the programs in order to apply to many universities during the regular decision cycle and compare financial aid offers from different schools.

"Virginia Dean of Admission Gregory W. Roberts said yesterday that the elimination of Early Decision has indeed increased diversity at his university.

“Socioeconomically and racially, the enrolling classes for the past three years have been significantly more diverse,” Roberts said. But he added that the school’s new Early Action program—which allows applicants to apply to other schools’ early admissions programs concurrently and does not compel them to attend Virginia if admitted—will not discourage underprivileged students from applying.

“From a university institutional self-interest perspective, we felt like there were students we were missing who were interested in applying and receiving early notification,” Roberts said. “We felt like we will be able to enroll the same type of class...and also respond to student interest.”

A subsequent Crimson editorial supports early action if it promotes diversity, and seems a bit obtuse about the relationship between Harvard's admissions policies and those of other schools:

Prioritize Socioeconomic Diversity

If Early Action negatively impacts the applicant pool, it should not return

"Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 announced last week that the College is in the process of re-evaluating its decision to eliminate early admissions. The program, known as Early Action, allowed applicants to receive a non-binding admissions notification in the winter. The college removed this option four years ago because top officials felt it gave an unfair edge to candidates from more affluent backgrounds. Such a groundbreaking decision deserves the critical reconsideration Harvard is currently undergoing, but administrators must stay true to their commitment to socioeconomic diversity. If such an evaluation reveals that a return to Early Action would compromise this priority, the program must not be reinstated.
This news comes on the heels of the University of Virginia’s announcement that it will reinstate early admissions; UVA had followed Harvard’s lead in eliminating its Early Decision option in 2006 and now exemplifies a growing trend of restoring related programs in competitive universities across the country. Whatever Harvard decides to do at the end of its evaluation, such actions should not be influenced by other schools’ choices. We hope that the admissions office acts solely according to what best serves Harvard and its goals."

HT: Rezwan Haque

update: a Feb 10, 2011 Crimson article updates the story (no decision has been reached yet) and focuses on the signaling aspect of early decision:
"Amy Sack, president of college counseling firm Admissions Accomplished, said that Harvard’s lack of an early admissions program has not discouraged her students from applying to the College. According to Sack, students who want to attend Harvard usually apply early to comparable schools such as Stanford University or Yale University, both of which offer non-binding early action admissions programs.
“I think it would be nice for them to be able to indicate that Harvard is their first choice. It would let them not have to play the game as much,” she said. “I think my students would be happy if Harvard brings it back.”
"In 2006, the last year early admission was offered, Harvard received 4,008 early action applications.
"The early acceptance rate was 21.5 percent compared to below nine percent overall."

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