Category Archives: Early Decision

Who Benefits From Early Decision?

Early Decision is a relatively new phenomenon in the college admissions landscape. But in the few decades since its inception, it’s become such a prominent feature of college admissions that many colleges fill up to half their freshman class through Early Decision applications. There is much controversy surrounding its impact on students and families because it tends to advantage affluent students who attend top secondary schools. This blog explores who stands to benefit from Early Decision, and how it affects the constituent groups of students, families, high schools, and colleges.

Historical Background

In the early centuries of college admissions, say from 1636 through the 1950s, all students applied through a Regular Admissions process, in which the deadline typically was January 1, and students received notification decisions by mid-April. But that all changed in the 1950s when a group of five smaller colleges that dubbed themselves the “Pentagonals” – Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Williams – decided to offer a binding Early Decision option in order to grab top students before they applied to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

As Early Decision became an increasingly popular option—and admissions became increasingly competitive—students felt increasing pressure to apply early, in order to maximize their chances of admission. In 2004, Yale and Stanford switched from ED to SCEA in order to decrease the stress on students. The non-binding option, they argued, would alleviate the additional pressure students face in having to commit before they’re fully ready.

Objections to Early Admissions, however, soon took on an additional dimension. In 2006, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA made the bold move to no longer offer any kind of early admissions program because of research suggesting that such programs disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic groups for a variety of reasons. These families needed to compare financial aid offers from more than one college, and often students in under-resourced high schools were not made aware of early admissions options, often missing out altogether.

Harvard, Princeton, and UVA hoped to serve as role models, and expected that other colleges would follow suit. While other colleges, such as Stanford, publicly supported their new policy, no colleges followed. This strategically disadvantaged Harvard, Princeton, and UVA, since other colleges could now grab top students through binding early programs, and within several years, all three resumed an early admissions program, with Harvard and Princeton offering SCEA, and UVA offering EA.

In fact, more and more colleges are now offering binding ED plans. In 2016, University of Chicago, Haverford, Wake Forest, and Wellesley added ED plans; and Tulane replaced its SCEA with ED. Very few of the most selective private colleges in the country now offer a non-restrictive early admissions option; these include Georgetown and MIT.

Impact of Early Decisions on Regular Decisions

37 colleges are now filling at least 40% of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision, as we discuss in our blog on trends in the Early Admissions process. This leaves significantly fewer spots for the vastly greater numbers of students who apply through Regular Decision. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, 7,110 ED applications were submitted for the Class of 2023, and 18% were accepted, filling about 53% of Penn’s incoming freshman class. That means that the significantly larger regular pool must compete for the remaining spots. For the Class of 2022, 44,482 students applied in Regular Decision, and only 8.4% were admitted.

These numbers can affect the quality of review of an applicant’s file. On the one hand, admissions officers have about twice as much time to review applications in the Regular Round, as they typically have three months for RD applications, from January 1 through April 1, and 1 ½ months for ED applications, from November 1 – December 15. But if the admissions staff receive a whopping 5x as many RD applications, as in Penn’s case, the review process will be much more compressed, and students who have a unique story to tell may not receive the same quality of consideration.

Who Benefits from Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who do not need to compare financial aid packages
  • Strong academic students who have sufficiently compelling GPAs by the end of junior year and test scores by October of senior year, and who do not need further testing or 1stsemester grades to bolster their candidacy
  • Students from top high schools with sufficient resources to provide individualized guidance in educating students about the benefits of early decision
  • Students from educated parents who are familiar with early decision options
  • Students who have private test prep tutors who advise them to take standardized tests in junior year so that they will have scores in time to submit for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Top high schools whose students take advantage of early decision to selective colleges; and who consequently are admitted at higher rates. High schools publicize their college acceptance and matriculation outcomes, and successful outcomes makes the school district more desirable for families who value education, increases property values, and draws new residents.

Colleges

  • Colleges who value students’ demonstrated interest. ED is often used by small to medium sized colleges who want to build a tight-knit community of students who are especially loyal to the school.

How Do Students Benefit?

  • Great acceptance rate. Simply put, students are more likely to be accepted. Typically the acceptance rate is higher for students who apply through a restrictive early program, such as ED or SCEA, because the applicants are demonstrating a strong degree of interest in attending the college. A landmark study conducted in 2001 by Christopher Avery, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, along with colleagues, found that applying ED provided the advantage of an additional 100 points on the SAT.
  • A more relaxed senior year. Students know where they will be attending by December 15. This eliminates the stress of waiting to find out where they have been accepted, enables the seniors to have a relaxed second semester, and provides them with a longer time in which to plan for the start of college.
  • Access to scholarships. Many merit scholarships are open only to students who apply by fall deadlines.
  • Access to interviews. Some colleges, such as MIT, only offer interviews to students who apply by fall deadlines.

How Do Colleges Benefit?

Early Decision plans benefit the college in numerous ways:

  • The accepted students are more devoted and loyal to the college; they will be stronger spokespeople for the college, and their positive feelings will affect other students
  • As alums, the graduates will likely donate more money because the college was a top choice, and that college accepted them in the early round
  • The colleges’ “yield” (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend) will increase, which increases predictability in calculating the freshman year
  • With increased yield, US News & World Report’s rankings increase

Who is Disadvantaged by Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who need to compare financial aid packages
  • Students from large public high schools with over-burdened guidance counselors who do not have the resources to educate students about the benefits of early decision
  • First-generation students whose parents may not speak English, may not be as actively involved in the high school, and may not be as aware of all the options of admissions plans
  • Students who do not have the financial resources for private test preparation, and are not knowledgeable about the timeline required to obtain scores in time for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Under-resourced high schools whose students do not take advantage of ED options, and have a lower chance of acceptance through RD

Colleges

  • Colleges who philosophically oppose ED, such as Catholic colleges, and may lose out on top students who would rather have the certainty of an ED acceptance.

Solutions

White House Report in 2014 cited that “While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do,” concluding that “college access and attainment remains unequal.” It is widely acknowledged that early admissions policies reward the affluent and penalize the poor. Yet it is strategically challenging to address this issue at the level of college institutions, due to the zero- sum-game element in which a small number of colleges with a steady number of slots compete for an ever-growing number of talented applicants.

The issue may be most effectively addressed by individuals and organizations that provide outreach to lower-income students. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy is now Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation, whose mission is to award scholarships to high-potential students with financial need. He is an ardent advocate for the end of early admissions, and argues that not only do such policies disadvantage low-income students, but that “our nation is being deprived of the talents of young people who could go on to become doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers and government leaders — and who could fill many other vital jobs if only they had the chance to get a college education.”

For guidance on the college admissions process, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2021

The early admissions train was packed this year with more and more students applying early action and early decision to their top college choices. By now, most students have received their early admissions decisions and are either elated by acceptance, disappointed with rejection, or stalled in the waiting room of deferral.

Whatever your early admissions outcomes, it is important to have an open mind and faith in the process of finding your “best-fit” school. In this blog, we have put together an in-depth analysis of this year’s trends and statistics. Take a look to see how you fit into the early admissions landscape.

Overall Early Application Trends

It was another record-breaking year: many schools saw record-high numbers of early applicants pools, which in turn often led lower acceptance rates.

Indeed, according to William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, “Early admission appears to be the ‘new normal’ now, as more students are applying early to Harvard and peer institutions than ever before.” This at least partially due to the fact that colleges too themselves continue to embrace the trend, with many filingl about half of their incoming classes from the early decision pool, including Dartmouth,Williams, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Middlebury College. Those who apply early tend to have better chances of admissions, but as a result, there are fewer spots available for Regular Decision applicants (further incentivizing students to apply early the next year).

Due to the advantages of applying early, many colleges have seen a sharp increase in the number of early applications. Over the past four years, Harvard has seen an increase of 38%. Northwestern, Princeton, and Williams have experienced increases of 30% or more.

This year, schools that received record-breaking numbers of early applications include Barnard (up 19% from last year), Columbia (up 16%), Cornell (up 10%), Georgetown (up 11%), Northwestern (up 23%), Wesleyan (up 17%), and Williams (up 25%).

Understandably, rising early applications resulted in historically low acceptance rates for many schools, including Cornell (25.6%), Georgetown (11.9%), Harvard (14.7%), MIT (7.8%), Princeton (15.4%), University of Pennsylvania (22%), and Williams (35%).

Overall Early Application Numbers

The following chart compares early admissions application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1st to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early decision is typically associated with higher acceptance rates because the school is guaranteed enrollment, which increases the yield factor, and brings to campus students who have demonstrated a high degree of interest.

Early Admissions Statistics for a Sampling of Selective Colleges

School  # Apps ‘21 Early Apps ‘20 Early Apps ‘19 Early Apps ‘18 Increase in EA/ED Apps ’18-’21 Acct. Rate ‘21 Acct. Rate ‘20 Acct. Rate ‘19 Acct. Rate ’18
Brown University (ED) 3,170 3,030 3,043 3,088 2.6% 21.9% 22% 20.3% 18.8%
Cornell University (ED) 5,384 4,882 4,560 4,775 12.7% 25.6% 27.4% 26.1% 27.7%
Dartmouth College (ED) 1,999 1,927 1,859 1,678 19.1% 27.8% 26% 26% 27.9%
Duke University (ED) 3,516 3,455 3,180 3,180 10.6% 24.5% 23.5% 26% 25%
Georgetown University (REA) 7,822 7,027 6,840 6,749 15.9% 11.9% 13% 13% 14%
Harvard University (SCEA) 6,473 6,173 5,919 4,692 38% 14.7% 14.8% 16.5% 21.1%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 1,934 1,929 1,865 1,595 21.2% 30.5% 30.3% 28.9% 33%
Middlebury College (ED) 673 636 667 686 -2% 51% 53.1% 42% 41.8%
MIT (EA) 8,394 7,767 6,519 6,820 23.1% 7.8% 8.4% 9.6% 9%
Northwestern University (ED) 3,736 3,022 2,793 2,863 30.5% n/a 35% 36.2% 32.3%
Princeton University (SCEA) 5,003 4,229 3,850 3,854 29.8% 15.4% 18.5% 19.9% 18.5%
Stanford University (REA) n/a 7,822 7,297 6,948 12.6% n/a 9.5% 10.2% 10.8%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 6,020 5,321 4,700* 6,551 28% since REA began in 2015 24.4% 30.2% 29.8% 29.9%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 6,147 5,762 5,489 5,149 19.4% 22% 23.2% 24% 25.2%
Williams College (ED) 728 585 593 554 31.4% 35% 42% 41% 42.8%
Yale University (SCEA) 5,086 4,662 4,693 4,750 7.1% 17.1% 17% 16% 15.5%

*Notre Dame changed its early admissions program from Early Action to Restrictive Early Action in 2015.

Deferral Stats

The statistics for deferral are not as widely published as acceptance rates. According to the available information, many schools defer more than half of their early applicant pool to the regular admissions round.

Notable exceptions include Duke, Middlebury, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Stanford who deny most applicants who are not accepted in the early round. For these schools, deferral is used to indicate that your application is competitive and will be given serious consideration in the regular admissions process.

Some schools, like the University of Michigan, use large numbers of deferrals to control class size as they have continued to receive increasingly large early applicant pools. Some colleges defer especially strong candidates who may view the college as a “safe” school, wait to see if the student withdraws the application based on acceptance by more selective colleges, and then may accept the student late-January through March.

For deferred students, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of admission in Regular Decision, including re-visiting, arranging for an additional letter of recommendation from a 12th grade teacher, and sending a follow-up letter with updates. Above all, stay positive, and continue to do your best academically. See our blog for more information.

Percent of Early Apps Deferred for Recent Classes

School Class of 2021 Class of 2020 Class of 2019 Class of 2018
Brown University (ED) 60% 63% 65% n/a
Cornell University (ED) 20.9% 23.6% 20% n/a
Duke University (ED) 20% 19% 19% 22%
Georgetown University (REA) 88.1%* 87% 87% 86%
Harvard University (SCEA) n/a 75.7% 72.5% 68%
Middlebury College (ED) 9% 11.6% 12% 14%
MIT (EA) 69.7% 61.5% 68.4% 66.5%
Princeton University (SCEA) n/a n/a n/a 78.9%
Stanford University (REA) n/a 9% 7.7% 8.5%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 14.8% 15.4% 17% 13.7%
Yale University (SCEA) 53% 53% 57% 58%

*Georgetown defers all students who are not accepted early action.

Changes in Early Admissions Plans

As early applications have increased, colleges are trying to get a better grasp on the predictability of their yield (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend). To this end, many schools have replaced non-binding Early Action plans with binding Early Decision plans. In addition, colleges have added a second round of Early Decision, called ED2.

Early Decision 2 deadlines tend to be January 1st or 15th (but may range from December 15th – February 1st). While Early Decision 2 helps schools to improve yield rates and rankings, there is also the benefit for students who need more time to improve test scores, show strong senior year grades, get a better sense of financial need, or re-visit schools. ED2 also allows students who have not been accepted to their first choice to declare a second school as their clear favorite, thus demonstrating strong interest.

Schools that added Early Decision options include Fairfield University (ED2), Haverford College (ED2), Loyola Marymount University (ED1), Providence College (ED2), University of Chicago (ED1/2), University of Miami (ED2), Wake Forest University (ED2), and Wellesley College (ED2).

Tulane University switched from offering a Single Choice Early Action program to allowing students to apply either Early Action, or Early Decision 1 and 2. Texas A&M added Early Action for engineering.

Increased Diversity Continues to be a Priority

Many of the most selective colleges continue to use early admissions for the big “hooks” – underrepresented minorities, lower socioeconomic, first-generation, and international students, as well as recruited athletes, and legacies.

Colleges have successfully broadened their outreach efforts to attract a more diverse applicant pool. For example, Penn partnered with over 40 community-based organizations that represent underserved students, including the national nonprofit program QuestBridge and Philadelphia’s Steppingstone Scholars program. This year, Dartmouth admitted its largest Early Decision cohort of QuestBridge students.

According to William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, “It does appear, say relative to the time when we gave up early admission, that there is greater ethnic and greater economic diversity in early pools these days, and therefore, in the admitted pool.” At Brown, over a third of early decision admits are students of color, the largest ratio in school history. Similarly, Duke broke a university record in that 41% of admitted early applicants are students of color.

Increases in the diversity of the student population are typically the result of institutional priorities. In 2011, Northwestern’s strategic plan established globalization goals that included more international students, achieved through outreach, more financial aid, and better orientation programs for international freshmen. The efforts were successful, and in 2015, Northwestern’s international population (both undergraduate and graduate) increased from 4,330 to over 6,000 students. For the undergraduate Class of 2021, Northwestern experienced an increase in international student early submissions, up by 39% from last year.

In 2014, Wesleyan actively sought increases in low- and middle-income students through a program of increased affordability, by replacing more loans with grants. As part of its overall goal of greater diversity, Wesleyan received its highest number of early applications from international students, up 75%. The school also saw a 44% increase in early applications from U.S. students of color, including a 56% increase from African American students.

Early Acceptance for Spring Semester

Some schools are offering early admissions acceptance for the spring semester of 2018, rather than the fall of 2017. This trend is driven by a need to fill seats caused by freshman attrition and junior year abroad programs. It is also a tactic that is sometimes part of a plan to shift students, whose GPA and test scores are not as strong, away from the September-starting freshmen cohort. The stats for the US News & World Reports rankings are compiled from freshmen who begin first semester.

Hamilton, Cornell, Elon, University of Miami, University of Maryland, and USC are all schools that have employed this January admission option. In January 2017, Cornell welcomed 60 incoming freshman through their First-Year Spring Admission Program.

While not traditional, this option allows the student to gain acceptance to the school, but also frees them from any Early Decision binding commitment. Students can often participate in service projects, take classes at another institution, work, or go abroad for the fall semester, followed by spring matriculation. A benefit of graduating in February versus May is that the job market is not as flooded with new graduates. But students who begin in spring semester can graduate with their class in June by meeting credit requirements through taking more courses during their 3 ½ years on campus, taking courses in the semester before they start, or applying AP credits.

The Common Application and Other Applications

 With nearly 700 member colleges, the Common Application is still the most popular platform for the college application process. However, there are some other options have tried to compete, including the new Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (Coalition) with its locker feature and the Universal College Application (UCA). The UCA was launched in 2013 in response to technical failures of the revamped Common Application, but it never gained sufficient critical mass of adoption by high school students. The Coalition was developed in 2015 in order to provide greater access to college applications for under-resourced students; and has steadily grown in members, with over 90 participating colleges at present. In addition, several schools continue to have their own application, including Clemson University, Elon University, Georgetown University, and Loyola University Maryland.

The Common App unveiled a new account rollover feature this year, and institutions of note that joined the organization included Baylor University, George Mason University, Indiana University-Bloomington, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For international students, UCAS has traditionally been the UK’s centralized application form for higher education institutions. UCAS limits students to applying to a maximum of five university programs. You are also limited to applying to one school in all of the Oxford and Cambridge’s colleges, known collectively as Oxbridge. More international students are now using the Common Application, which has a much greater limit of 20 total universities. Several international schools have joined the Common App, including St Andrews, King’s College London, and the University of Glasgow. See our blog on UK Universities to learn more!

Notable Moments in Early Admissions for the Class of 2021

  • For the first time in Penn’s history, female applicants made up half of the students admitted to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences through the Early Decision program.
  • Stanford will not release early admissions statistics for the Class of 2021 until the end of the admissions cycle.
  • Tulane University mistakenly sent early acceptance emails to 130 applicants due to a coding glitch in their new software. The Director of Admission, Jeff Schiffman, publicly apologized for any distress this caused the recipients of the erroneous acceptances.
  • Yale is set to open two residential colleges next fall and plans to admit 15% more students to the class of 2021.
  • Michigan’s Ross School of Business plans to admit 80% of its incoming class through the preferred admissions program. Current Michigan students who wish to apply to Ross will do so through internal transfer admissions. This year, BBA applicants were required to submit a Ross-specific portfolio, which included an essay component and an artifact that demonstrates “action-based learning.”
  • ACT scores for the October 16 test date were significantly delayed, which created a delay in applying early for many students and obscured their understanding of their admissions chances before applying. The hard lesson is that students should try to take their testing as early as possible.

Deciding whether and where to apply early can be daunting, but here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us!

Early Application Options for US Colleges

All colleges offer high school seniors the option to apply through Regular Decision application plans, in which students typically apply by early January, are notified of admissions decisions by April 1, are not restricted by how many colleges to apply to, and are not bound to attend. Sounds straightforward, right?

But the last few decades have seen a proliferation of numerous “early” admissions options, each with its own rules. For high school students looking ahead to the college admissions process, the variety of early application plans may seem confusing! Should you apply to colleges through Early Decision, Early Action, Single Choice Early Action, or Rolling Admissions plans? Here’s a guide to help you sort through your different options so that you can understand the impact of the different plans and decide which is right for you.

A few relevant terms for early application plans are:

  • Binding: the student is committed to attending the college, if accepted
  • Restrictive: the student may not apply to another admissions program. ED and SCEA are restrictive (applicants can only apply to one such program), while EA, RD, and Rolling plans are not.

EARLY ADMISSIONS PLANS

The two main early admissions plans are Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA), including Single Choice Early Action (SCEA). Of the 3500 colleges in the US, about 450 colleges offer one of these early plans. Some colleges, like University of Miami, offer both ED and EA. Typically, early applications are due between Nov 1 – Dec 1, and decisions are given about one month later.

  • Early Decision (ED) applications are binding, so students should reserve this for their first-choice college. Students agree to attend if accepted, so they can only apply to one college through Early Decision. Typically students may simultaneously apply to EA or RD programs, but it’s best to check the colleges’ websites for their policies.
    • Examples: Brown, Northwestern, Rice, Williams
  • Early Action (EA) applications are not binding, so students can typically apply to multiple colleges through Early Action.
    • Examples: CalTech, Georgetown, MIT, Northeastern
  • Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) is a hybrid of Early Decision and Early Action in that students are restricted to one such application, but it is not binding. This plan is sometimes referred to as Restrictive Early Action (REA). Typically, students can apply to public institutions at the same time.
    • Examples: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford
  • Rolling Admission applications are reviewed as they are received, and students are accepted on a rolling basis until spaces are filled.
    • Examples: Columbia College Chicago, Eckerd College, Kings College London
  • Priority Deadlines are used by many large public institutions to try to identify which of the multitudes of applicants have the strongest interest in attending the school. Such colleges state that applying by the priority deadline (typically in November) will result in a quicker admissions decision, increase the student’s chance of being accepted, and boost the chance of receiving scholarships.
    • Examples: Ohio State University, Penn State University, University of Maryland

FALL DEADLINES FOR REGULAR DECISION

To add to the complications, there are a few college-specific deadlines in the fall that may affect RD applications. It’s critical to read the fine print on colleges’ admissions websites in order to keep informed of colleges’ policies:

  • For the University of California system, applications must be filed from November 1 – November 30 and students are notified of decisions in mid-March. So while the deadline is early in the school year, there is no corresponding Regular Decision process. In contrast, some colleges, such as University of Southern California (USC) offer only Regular Decision with no early application plans.
  • MIT offers both Early Action (November 1 deadline) and Regular Action (January 1 deadline), but has earlier deadlines for scheduling alumni interviews (October 20 and December 10, respectively); and your chances of acceptance are far greater if you interview.
  • The Emory University Scholars Program offers merit scholarships to students who apply by November 15, regardless of whether the application is ED or RD.

The college admissions process is constantly changing. To keep on top of trends and policies, contact Collegiate Gateway! As always, we’re happy to help!
 

 

Who Benefits From Early Decision?

Early Decision is a relatively new phenomenon in the college admissions landscape. But in the few decades since its inception, it’s become such a prominent feature of college admissions that many colleges fill up to half their freshman class through Early Decision applications. There is much controversy surrounding its impact on students and families because it tends to advantage affluent students who attend top secondary schools. This blog explores who stands to benefit from Early Decision, and how it affects the constituent groups of students, families, high schools, and colleges.

 

Historical Background

In the early centuries of college admissions, say from 1636 through the 1950s, all students applied through a Regular Admissions process, in which the deadline typically was January 1, and students received notification decisions by mid-April. But that all changed in the 1950s when a group of five smaller colleges that dubbed themselves the “Pentagonals” – Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Williams – decided to offer a binding Early Decision option in order to grab top students before they applied to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

As Early Decision became an increasingly popular option—and admissions became increasingly competitive—students felt increasing pressure to apply early, in order to maximize their chances of admission. In 2004, Yale and Stanford switched from ED to SCEA in order to decrease the stress on students. The non-binding option, they argued, would alleviate the additional pressure students face in having to commit before they’re fully ready.

Objections to Early Admissions, however, soon took on an additional dimension. In 2006, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA made the bold move to no longer offer any kind of early admissions program because of research suggesting that such programs disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic groups for a variety of reasons. These families needed to compare financial aid offers from more than one college, and often students in under-resourced high schools were not made aware of early admissions options, often missing out altogether.

Harvard, Princeton, and UVA hoped to serve as role models, and expected that other colleges would follow suit. While other colleges, such as Stanford, publicly supported their new policy, no colleges followed. This strategically disadvantaged Harvard, Princeton, and UVA, since other colleges could now grab top students through binding early programs, and within several years, all three resumed an early admissions program, with Harvard and Princeton offering SCEA, and UVA offering EA.

In fact, more and more colleges are now offering binding ED plans. In 2016, University of Chicago, Haverford, Wake Forest, and Wellesley added ED plans; and Tulane replaced its SCEA with ED. Very few of the most selective private colleges in the country now offer a non-restrictive early admissions option; these include Georgetown and MIT.

 

Impact of Early Decisions on Regular Decisions

37 colleges are now filling at least 40% of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision, as we discuss in our blog on trends in the Early Admissions process. This leaves significantly fewer spots for the vastly greater numbers of students who apply through Regular Decision. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, 6147 ED applications were submitted for the Class of 2021, and 1354 (22%) were accepted, filling about 55% of Penn’s freshman class size of approximately 2450. That means that the significantly larger regular pool must compete for only 1100 remaining spots. For the Class of 2020, 33,156 students applied in Regular Decision, and only 3,674 (9%) were admitted.

These numbers can affect the quality of review of an applicant’s file. On the one hand, admissions officers have about twice as much time to review applications in the Regular Round, as they typically have three months for RD applications, from January 1 through April 1, and 1 ½ months for ED applications, from November 1 – December 15. But if the admissions staff receive a whopping 5x as many RD applications, as in Penn’s case, the review process will be much more compressed, and students who have a unique story to tell may not receive the same quality of consideration.

 

Who Benefits from Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who do not need to compare financial aid packages
  • Strong academic students who have sufficiently compelling GPAs by the end of junior year and test scores by October of senior year, and who do not need further testing or 1st semester grades to bolster their candidacy
  • Students from top high schools with sufficient resources to provide individualized guidance in educating students about the benefits of early decision
  • Students from educated parents who are familiar with early decision options
  • Students who have private test prep tutors who advise them to take standardized tests in junior year so that they will have scores in time to submit for early deadlines

 

High Schools

  • Top high schools whose students take advantage of early decision to selective college; and who consequently are admitted at higher rates. High schools publicize their college acceptance and matriculation outcomes, and successful outcomes makes the school district more desirable for families who value education, increases property values, and draws new residents.

 

Colleges

  • Colleges who value students’ demonstrated interest. ED is often used by small to medium sized colleges who want to build a tight-knit community of students who are especially loyal to the school.

 

How Do Students Benefit?

  • Great acceptance rate. Simply put, students are more likely to be accepted. Typically the acceptance rate is higher for students who apply through a restrictive early program, such as ED or SCEA, because the applicants are demonstrating a strong degree of interest in attending the college. A landmark study conducted in 2001 by Christopher Avery, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, along with colleagues, found that applying ED provided the advantage of an additional 100 points on the SAT.
  • A more relaxed senior year. Students know where they will be attending by December 15. This eliminates the stress of waiting to find out where they have been accepted, enables the seniors to have a relaxed second semester, and provides them with a longer time in which to plan for the start of college.
  • Access to scholarships. Many merit scholarships are open only to students who apply by fall deadlines.
  • Access to interviews. Some colleges, such as MIT, only offer interviews to students who apply by fall deadlines.

 

How Do Colleges Benefit?

Early Decision plans benefit the college in numerous ways:

  • The accepted students are more devoted and loyal to the college; they will be stronger spokespeople for the college, and their positive feelings will affect other students
  • As alums, the graduates will likely donate more money because the college was a top choice, and that college accepted them in the early round
  • The colleges’ “yield” (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend) will increase, which increases predictability in calculating the freshman year
  • With increased yield, US News & World Reports rankings increase

 

Who is Disadvantaged by Early Decision?

Students

  • Students from families who need to compare financial aid packages
  • Students from large public high schools with over-burdened guidance counselors who do not have the resources to educate students about the benefits of early decision
  • First-generation students whose parents may not speak English, may not be as actively involved in the high school, and may not be as aware of all the options of admissions plans
  • Students who do not have the financial resources for private test preparation, and are not knowledgeable about the timeline required to obtain scores in time for early deadlines

High Schools

  • Under-resourced high schools whose students do not take advantage of ED options, and have a lower chance of acceptance through RD

Colleges

  • Colleges who philosophically oppose ED, such as Catholic colleges, and may lose out on top students who would rather have the certainty of an ED acceptance.

 

Solutions

A White House Report in 2014 cited that “While half of all people from high-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families do,” concluding that “college access and attainment remains unequal.” It is widely acknowledged that early admissions policies reward the affluent and penalize the poor. Yet it is strategically challenging to address this issue at the level of college institutions, due to the zero- sum-game element in which a small number of colleges with a steady number of slots compete for an ever-growing number of talented applicants.

The issue may be most effectively addressed by individuals and organizations that provide outreach to lower-income students. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy is now Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation, whose mission is to award scholarships to high-potential students with financial need. He is an ardent advocate for the end of early admissions, and argues that not only do such policies disadvantage low-income students, but that “our nation is being deprived of the talents of young people who could go on to become doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers and government leaders — and who could fill many other vital jobs if only they had the chance to get a college education.”

For guidance on the college admissions process, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Decisions: Your Next Steps

Early admissions decisions are in from most colleges, and if you’ve applied early, chances are you know whether you’ve been admitted, deferred, or denied.

But now what? Depending on your admissions outcome, there are a variety of actions you can – and should – take. If you’ve accepted a binding admissions decision, we’ll tell you how to start off your college career on the right foot. If not, we’ll help you maximize your admissions chances going forward.

Accepted, Early Decision

First of all, congratulations! If you were admitted Early Decision, your college search has come to an ideal conclusion. The steps for you to take now are to closely follow the instructions you’ll receive from the admissions office and make sure you meet all required deposit deadlines.  In addition, send thank you notes to everyone who helped you through this process, including your guidance counselor, recommenders and tutors. They’ll certainly be happy to share in your excitement!

Withdraw All Other Applications.  Make sure you withdraw any other outstanding applications to other colleges. Failing to do so will violate the terms of your ED contract, and be unfair to many other hopeful applicants.

Accepted, Early Action

Again, congratulations, especially if your Early Action (EA) admission was to your first-choice college. Unlike an ED admit, you are not obligated to communicate your decision to colleges until May 1st, the “National Candidates Reply Date” for all non-ED applicants except NCAA-recruited athletes.

Withdraw Applications For Colleges In Which You Are No Longer Interested.  You are now in a position to re-evaluate your college list. As a result of a particular EA acceptance, you may no longer be interested in certain other colleges; if so withdraw those applications. While technically permissible, don’t keep applications open just to see whether you’d get in if you have no intention of attending; doing so potentially takes away opportunities from other students, including your friends and peers.

Denied

If you’ve been denied, you’re probably disappointed, but don’t let it get you down, and don’t second-guess yourself or your other applications. In other words, stay the course. You have already identified an appropriate range of colleges and given the application process your best shot. Have faith that you will have options that are a great fit for you!

Focus on Regular Decision Applications. In order to strengthen your chances, make sure to take the following steps:

  • Check all your college admissions portals to verify that all the application components have been received.
  • If you have not yet visited colleges that you are very interested in, do so, preferably by the end of February. Learn more about why the college is a good fit, and include that in a follow-up email to the regional admissions officers.
  • You can also send follow-up letters with any news of honors or awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects.

Deferred

While in some ways the most uncertain status, being deferred – and not denied – means that you are in line with the college’s admissions profile, and that you are still in the running. Nevertheless, it is also important to realize that you are no longer dealing with higher early admissions acceptance rates, but rather with lower regular admission acceptance rates.

Note that a deferral releases you from your early decision binding commitment to enroll if you are admitted.

Strengthen Your Chances for the Regular Decision Process. There are several steps you can take in order to strengthen your application to the college from which you were deferred:

  • If there is a 12th grade teacher who could add a different perspective to your application, consider submitting an additional recommendation.
  • Try to visit the college again and meet with professors in your areas of interest, if feasible.
  • Write a follow-up note re-affirming your interest. Jeff Schiffman, Interim Director of Admission for Tulane University writes, “It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not, in some form, reach out to us.”

Be genuine. If you would attend if accepted, say so. If not, state that you remain strongly interested in the college. If you have re-visited, discuss the specifics of your visit in your note.  Summarize why the college is an excellent fit for you, and mention unique strengths and experiences you would contribute to campus.  If appropriate, include updates of awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects that have occurred since you submitted your original application.

  • Look at the college’s admissions website to learn specifically what follow-up information they would like to receive. For example, Johns Hopkinsdoes not require, but welcomes the following: “additional standardized test results, your senior year semester grades, additional letters of recommendation, an updated rèsumè, or an additional written statement of your interest in Johns Hopkins.” Nearly all colleges will accept informational updates that help them assess your candidacy from a fresh perspective.
  • Continue to engage in all your courses. Remember that colleges require your first semester senior year grades.

Additionally, follow the steps listed above to maximize your chances at the Regular Decision colleges on your list. This will give you the best range of options down the road. By the time you need to decide which college to attend on May 1st, your preferences may well have shifted.

For a closer look at deferral rates and other early admissions trends for the Class of 2021, see our blog!

Navigating the admissions process is complicated, even long after you’ve submitted your applications. If you need any further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Decisions: Your Next Steps

Early admissions decisions are in from most colleges, and if you’ve applied early, chances are you know whether you’ve been admitted, deferred, or denied.

But now what? Depending on your admissions outcome, there are a variety of actions you can – and should – take. If you’ve accepted a binding admissions decision, we’ll tell you how to start off your college career on the right foot. If not, we’ll help you maximize your admissions chances going forward.

Accepted, Early Decision

First of all, congratulations! If you were admitted Early Decision, your college search has come to an ideal conclusion. The steps for you to take now are to closely follow the instructions you’ll receive from the admissions office and make sure you meet all required deposit deadlines.  In addition, send thank-you notes to everyone who helped you through this process, including your guidance counselor, recommenders and tutors. They’ll certainly be happy to share in your excitement!

Withdraw All Other Applications.  Make sure you withdraw any other outstanding applications to other colleges. Failing to do so will violate the terms of your ED contract, and be unfair to many other hopeful applicants.

Accepted, Early Action

Again, congratulations, especially if your Early Action (EA) admission was to your first-choice college. Unlike an ED admit, you are not obligated to communicate your decision to colleges until the May 1st, the “National Candidates Reply Date” for all non-ED applicants except NCAA-recruited athletes.

Withdraw Applications For Colleges In Which You Are No Longer Interested.  As a result of a particular EA acceptance, you may no longer be interested in certain other colleges; if so withdraw those applications. While technically permissible, don’t keep applications open just to see whether you’d get in if you have no intention of attending; doing so potentially takes away opportunities from other students, including your friends and peers.

Denied

If you’ve been denied, you’re probably disappointed, but don’t let it get you down, and don’t second-guess yourself or your other applications. In other words, stay the course. You have already identified an appropriate range of colleges and given the application process your best shot. Have faith that you will have options that are a great fit for you!

Focus on Regular Decision Applications. In order to strengthen your chances, make sure to take the following steps:

  • Check all your college admissions portals to verify that all the application components have been received.
  • If you have not yet visited colleges that you are very interested in, do so, preferably by the end of February. Learn more about why the college is a good fit, and include that in a follow-up email to the regional admissions officers.
  • You can also send follow-up letters with any news of honors or awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects.

Deferred

While in some ways the most uncertain status, being deferred – and not denied – means that you are in line with the college’s admissions profile, and that you are still in the running. Nevertheless, it is also important to realize that you are no longer dealing with higher early admissions acceptance rates, but rather with lower regular admission acceptance rates.

Note that a deferral releases you from your early decision binding commitment to enroll if you are admitted.

Strengthen Your Chances for the Regular Decision Process. There are several steps you can take in order to strengthen your application to the college from which you were deferred:

  • If there is a 12th grade teacher who could add a different perspective to your application, consider submitting an additional recommendation.
  • Try to visit the college again and meet with professors in your areas of interest, if feasible.
  • Write a follow-up note re-affirming your interest. Jeff Schiffman, Interim Director of Admission for Tulane University writes, “It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not, in some form, reach out to us.”

Be genuine. If you would attend if accepted, say so. If not, state that you remain strongly interested in the college. If you have re-visited, discuss the specifics of your visit in your note.  Summarize why the college is an excellent fit for you, and unique strengths and experiences you would contribute to campus.  If appropriate, include updates of awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects that have occurred since you submitted your original application.

  • Look at the college’s admissions website to learn specifically what follow-up information they would like to receive. For example, Johns Hopkins does not require, but welcomes the following: “additional standardized test results, your senior year semester grades, additional letters of recommendation, an updated rèsumè, or an additional written statement of your interest in Johns Hopkins.” Nearly all colleges will accept informational updates that help them assess your candidacy from a fresh perspective.
  • Continue to engage in all your courses. Remember that colleges require your first semester senior year grades.

Additionally, follow the steps listed above to maximize your chances at the Regular Decision colleges on your list. This will give you the best range of options down the road. By the time you need to decide which college to attend on May 1st, your preferences may well have shifted.

For a closer look at deferral rates and other early admissions trends for the Class of 2020, see our blog!

Navigating the admissions process is complicated, even long after you’ve submitted your applications. If you need any further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help!

 

What You Need to Know About Test Score Delays

Nearly every year, the college admissions process suffers some sort of hiccup. Two years ago, the Common App crashed in a spectacularly disastrous manner, and this year, the ACT and College Board seem to be following suit: both have announced significant delays in score reporting, leading to a fair amount of frustration and anxiety among students and parents.

As with the Common App, it’s important to understand the situation, and of course remain calm. Here’s what you need to know.

College Board Delays Rush SAT Score

Last Thursday, the College Board sent an email informing test takers that, due to an unexpectedly high volume of requests, SAT score report orders placed on or after October 15 would be delayed. As a result, it is likely that these reports will not reach colleges in time by November 1st early action and early decision deadlines.

Understandably, the news left many college applicants frustrated, and others fearing that the delay may negatively impact their admissions chances.

According to the College Board, the organization is working to deliver score reports as quickly as possible, and has notified colleges of the situation:

“We are reaching out to colleges with early action/early decision deadlines of Nov. 1 to make them aware of the situation, and we are encouraging them be flexible should scores arrive late.”

It remains to be seen, however, how flexible colleges may or may not be. As a result, applicants should self-report their scores to their colleges as soon as available.

Major Delays in Obtaining September and October ACT Scores

Similarly, the ACT organization announced last week that there would be a delay in processing scores from the September and October test administrations due to the high volume and test takers, and enhancements to the writing portion. This is doubly frustrating for students, given that colleges won’t accept the ACT scores without the writing component.

The result, again, is that many students fear missing early decision deadlines. Steve Kappler, vice president of brand experience for ACT, has tried to explain the situation, though his answer, reportedly, has not been particularly comforting to test takers or colleges.

“We understand that some students may be facing important application deadlines. Students who took the ACT with writing may view their multiple-choice scores…on the ACT student website. Official score reports, however, cannot be sent to students, high schools or colleges until the writing test scoring is complete.”

Because deadlines are nearing, the ACT has urged colleges to accept screenshots of students multiple-choice scores as a provisional measure until official scores are sent. Additionally, students are urged to send colleges a copy of the email they receive from ACT (along with a screenshot of their multiple-choice test scores), in order to verify that they are among the students affected by this issue; and to self-report the October scores as soon as they become available.

Response of Colleges

The response of colleges has varied. Many colleges have assured students that the delays will not impact a full read of their application, while others have been less accommodating.

Columbia University stated:

“If you are an Early Decision applicant and your ACT scores from the September or October testing date have been delayed, we will accept a screenshot of your results. Official scores are required once they become available.”

Similarly, University of Pennsylvania encouraged applicants to submit their applications, self-report scores, and submit official score reports as soon as they become available, adding that “provided that your official scores reach us by the end of November, we will be able to consider them for Early Decision.”

MIT has simply said, “We will wait for your October and November test results.”

But other colleges are not extending themselves to accommodate the delays. For instance, Boston College states:

“While we will make every effort to include October ACT results in our evaluation of Early Action applications, it is unlikely that they will arrive in time to be considered. Students should designate Boston College as a recipient of these results on or before the day they take the exam to ensure swiftest possible delivery to the Office of Undergraduate Admission.”

On Friday, October 30, 2015, Yale University sent applicants the following email…and a few life tips at the end (emphasis ours):

“If you took the September ACT, Yale should receive your scores in time for Early Action consideration. Similarly, if you placed an SAT score report order on or after October 14, Yale should receive your scores in time for Early Action consideration. Do not worry if your scores do not arrive by November 1. Scores that are received by the first week in December will arrive in time for Early Action consideration and will be considered without prejudice.

Please understand that we cannot guarantee that we will receive October results in time to be considered in the Early Action admissions process.

Plan ahead! You do not need to wait to take the tests on the very last eligible date. 

What Should You Do?

Stay calm during this frustrating time! Stay informed about the policies of your colleges by going onto their websites for updates, and following them on Twitter and Facebook. If your college will not accommodate the late reporting of test scores, and you feel you will be disadvantaged by not including these recent scores, then consider delaying your application until regular decision.

As this situation develops, more questions are almost certain to arise. For more guidance and information, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

Early Admissions Trends at Selective Colleges, Class of 2018

  1. Number of early admissions applicants rises significantly
  2. Early admissions rates increase slightly
  3. Colleges fill a sizeable portion of freshman class with ED
  4. Colleges vary in how they use deferrals and denials
  5. This is the best class ever! (really)

 

Early Decision Applicants Continue to Increase

For many colleges, the number of applications continues to increase, as a direct result of increases in the number of students graduating from high school, the number of students attending college, the ease of online applications, and the increased outreach of colleges to attract a larger and more diverse pool.

A few representative examples: Cornell University’s ED applicant pool increased 13.6% from last year, and each of Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges and schools showed increases. The number of Northwestern’s ED applications has steadily increased for nine consecutive years, with this year’s numbers peaking at 2,828 ED applicants. The provost for University enrollment credits this 14.73 percent increase to the University’s “excellent job of raising [their] visibility across the nation and the world.”

 

Early Admissions Rate Shows Nominal Rises

Although significantly more students are applying within the ED pool, this year has seen only a small increase in the admit rate across schools, since colleges are not increasing capacity to keep pace with student interest.

According to “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” University of Pennsylvania accepted 25.3% of ED applicants, an increase of only .4%. Harvard is another school that increased its admissions rates this season. Harvard accepted 21% of its pool, an increase from last year’s 18% admit rate. Princeton University accepted 18.5% of applicants this December, according to “The Daily Princetonian,” only minimally higher than their 18.3% rate last year. However, not all schools’ acceptance rates are on the rise. Brown University’s ED acceptance rate was the second lowest in University’s history, according to “The Brown Daily Herald.” Only 18.9% of applicants were accepted to the class of 2018, even though their pool was a record-high of 3,088 applicants.

 

If Not Admitted, Deferred or Denied?

Colleges have differing strategic policies regarding whether to defer or deny most students not accepted through early admissions.  Deferral provides students with the opportunity to strengthen their academic profile for Regular Decision through their first semester grades, additional testing, or additional recommendations. On the other hand, if a student is not likely to be accepted in the regular round, a denial may provide the student with the psychological freedom to form attachments to other colleges.

On one end of the spectrum, Princeton University rarely denies EA applicants, and the denial rate for the Class of 2018 is 1.2%, with 79% of total applicants deferred.  On the other end of the spectrum, Duke denied 53% of its ED applicants, and deferred 22%. Most colleges take an in-between stance.  Brown, after accepting 19% of ED applicants, deferred 71% and denied 10%.  MIT accepted 9% of its 6820 applicants, deferred 67% and denied 21%. Yale accepted 16% of its 4750 SCEA applicants, deferred 58% and denied 26%.

If you are deferred from a college, it would be helpful for you to research whether the college tends to favor deferrals or denials for those students not accepted.  If the college denies most of the non-accepted students, then your deferral is more meaningful and carries a greater chance of ultimate acceptance.

 

Colleges Fill A Significant Percentage of Freshman Class through Early Decision

ED applicants represent the strongest way for colleges to craft their incoming class, based on each school’s specific institutional priorities (e.g. under-represented minorities, first-generation students, athletic recruits, legacies, students with specific talent hooks such as music, arts, science).  Since ED is binding, colleges do not have to wonder about the “yield” on ED admits, since it will be nearly 100%*.

The University of Pennsylvania filled a whopping 54% of its expected freshman class through ED, accepting 25% of its record-high ED applicant pool of 5149. Typically, colleges fill less than (but often close to) 50% of their freshman class through ED. For example, Duke University filled nearly 47% of its Class of 2018 through ED, accepting 797 students out of 3180 applicants (25%) for an expected freshman class of 1705.  Northwestern’s Chris Watson, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Northwestern, said it’s likely that filling 45% of the freshman class through ED would continue to be the institution’s goal.

Colleges like to say that “most” of the class is filled through Regular Decision, possibly because students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not as familiar with early admissions options; this strategy appears to provide this demographic segment with more opportunity for admission. But when such a significant percentage of the incoming class is already filled through ED, the admit rate for the regular pool will be significantly lower. Last year, Duke’s acceptance rate for the Class of 2017 was only 10% for RD compared with 30% for ED.

 

The Role of Yield

Yield is the percent of students who choose to attend the institution out of the pool of accepted students. The higher the yield, the fewer the number of applicants a college needs to accept to “yield” the class size it seeks.  US colleges with the highest yield, based on data for the Class of 2017, include Harvard University, at 82%, Stanford at 77%, Cooper Union at 76%, Princeton at 67% and Penn at 64%. A high yield helps colleges forecast their housing needs and use of wait lists, and the measure itself plays a role in the US News & World Reports rankings.

 

Class of 2018 Rocks!

Although the numbers differ, all schools agree on one thing: the class of 2018 is certainly one of the strongest groups seen in past years! Penn Admissions calls it their “largest, strongest, and most diverse admitted ED class,” according to the “The Daily Pennsylvanian.”  Vanderbilt says, “This year’s pool of EDI applicants was the largest, most academically qualified, most diverse, and most superlative-heavy group in Vanderbilt history.” And Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said that “This year’s applicants are remarkable by any standard. Their academic and extracurricular strengths are impressive—as is their ethnic, economic, and geographic diversity.”

To learn more about college admissions trends, follow us on twitter and Facebook.  For additional guidance, contact www.collegiategateway.com.

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* The reason that ED yield is not 100% is that some students withdraw due to changes in personal or financial circumstances. Additionally, some ED acceptances are rescinded due to academic or disciplinary issues after acceptance.

Updated: College Admissions Trends, 2013 Edition

For students and parents beginning the long journey that is the college admissions process, information is key. The more you know about recent trends, realities and expectations, the better prepared you are to tackle challenges and succeed in gaining admissions to the colleges of your choice. With that in mind, Collegiate Gateway has prepared a brief overview of the major trends in admissions, so that you can begin to prepare for the process ahead.

 

More Applications Mean More Competition.

The number of high school graduates in the U.S. steadily increased for 15 years before peaking at 3.4 million graduates in 2010-11. Colleges have continued to receive record numbers of applications every year. The Common App is now accepted at over 500 schools, including the vast majority of selective schools, and the ease of the shared online application has resulted in students applying to greater numbers of colleges than ever before. In addition, colleges are using outreach enrollment recruitment strategies to attract a more diverse applicant pool, including international students. According to the Department of Education data, the average number of applications per institution increased 60 percent between 2002 and 2011.

Yet, capacity at colleges has remained fairly constant. As a result, acceptance rates have steadily declined. This is especially true among the most selective, “top tier” institutions. This year, every university in the Ivy League reported decreased acceptance rates from last year, the lowest being 5.79% at Harvard. The only exception was Dartmouth, with an admit rate that inched up from 9.8% last year to 10.05%. And the rates are just as low, and in some cases, even lower, outside the Ivies. The most competitive this year was Stanford, which accepted only 5.69% of its more than 38,800 applicants. The University of Chicago accepted 8.8% of its record 30,369 applications, and MIT admitted just 8.2% of a record-high 18,989 applicants – a new low acceptance rate for the university.

There are other reasons for the every-heightening selectivity. Colleges are themselves increasingly concerned about their rankings, and may use strategies to try to keep their acceptance rates low, such as sending mass mailing to attract additional applicants or selecting only those students who are likely to enroll. These, along with other factors, combine to make the college admissions process an increasingly complex, often unpredictable process.

 

The Ever-Expanding Waitlist.  

Increased applications, however, don’t just mean more rejections. They also mean a lot more students are winding up in College Admissions Purgatory, namely, on the waitlist. While the waitlist itself has been around for decades, its function has evolved in recent years, as colleges have had difficulty predicting how many of their accepted students will actually enroll. Both a necessity, as well as a sort of consolation prize for highly qualified (but ultimately not qualified enough) applicants, the waitlist has expanded tremendously. The prevalence of waitlist use increased from 32 percent in 2002 to 44.7 percent in 2011. During the Fall 2011 admission cycle, institutions reported placing an average of nine percent of all applicants on the waitlist, and on average, 31 percent of these students were accepted. As expected, the waitlist acceptance rate has always been much lower at the most selective institutions. In 2011, the most selective colleges and universities accepted 17 percent of students on the waitlist. A few years ago, more Duke applicants were waitlisted than admitted!

 

Admitted, But Not For the Fall.

A relatively new phenomenon among colleges (dating back to 2001 when USC first started the trend) is offering students admission, but not until the spring semester of their freshman year. While not a universal practice, the list now includes Skidmore College, Hamilton College, Brandeis University, Northeastern University, and Middlebury College. Each has its own unique way of going about it: some do not let students enroll until the spring; while others enroll them right away, but place them in a fall semester program abroad, like Colby, or an alternative class schedule program like University of Maryland. But the reason for this practice is the same: between freshman attrition and junior study abroad, campus populations decline in the second half of each year. Admitting more students for later in the year allows colleges to fill the dorm beds, and generate more tuition revenue.

 

The Big Picture: “Holistic” Admissions.

The current state of intense competition among college applicants has influenced not only admissions outcomes, but also the admissions process – that is, the way colleges evaluate prospective students. According to NACAC’s most recent State of College Admission report, establishing “fit” is more important than ever before, especially at private, small, and highly selective institutions. This has led to what many admissions officers refer to as a “holistic,” rather than “by the numbers,” evaluation process. In each of the last 10 years, private colleges assigned greater importance than public colleges to many factors other than grades and test scores, including the essay or writing sample, the interview, the counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and the applicant’s demonstrated interest. Colleges are increasingly looking for students who demonstrate qualities such as character, creativity, leadership, a sense of humor, and moral fiber, which these supplemental materials stand to reveal.

 

The Early Birds Get the Worm, Sometimes.

As mentioned above, application numbers are up, and early action/decision applications are no exception. In 2013, early admission programs continued to record double-digit increases in applicants. Boston University, for example, saw a 41 percent increase in early applicants, while Bates College rose 30 percent and Cornell rose 16.5 percent. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: colleges, in order to better predict and control matriculation rates, admit large percentages of each incoming class from their early application pool; Columbia and Penn, for example, filled 49.5% and 48.2% this year through Early Decision. This, in turn, results in substantially higher acceptance rates among early applicants, for example 13.4% Single Choice Early Action versus 5.2% Regular Decision at Yale.

 

The most important thing for students, however, is to remain focused and calm. While these statistics may seem daunting, with the right planning and guidance early on, you can – and will – end up at a college of your choice, where you can be happy, challenged and successful. For more information and guidance, contact Collegiate Gateway LLC at www.collegiategateway.com.