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Harvard Reverses Itself-Will Allow Early Applications

In 2006, Harvard University decided to stop offing early admissions–for Harvard that meant they would no longer offer non-binding Early Action. According to the Harvard University Gazette, the reason for the change was this: “The college admissions process has become too pressured, too complex, and too vulnerable to public cynicism,” said Harvard interim President Derek Bok. “We hope that doing away with early admission will improve the process and make it simpler and fairer.”

At the time, it was widely believed that other universities would follow suit to help even the playing field.  I myself was sure that Yale would follow Harvard and renounce early admissions since President Levin had stated back in 2001 that he wanted to see the practice ended. The NY Times quoted President Levin:

The president of Yale University said yesterday that he would like to abandon the frenzied process of early-decision admissions, and that he had approached the presidents of other selective colleges to discuss the possibility of coordinated action.

”If we all got rid of it, it would be a good thing,” Yale’s president, Richard C. Levin, said during an interview yesterday. ”It pushes the pressure of thinking about college back into the junior year of high school, and the only one who benefits is the admissions officers.”

But they didn’t all get rid of their early programs– in the Ivy League only Princeton followed Harvard’s lead. Yale held onto its Single Choice Early Action and the rest (Cornell, Columbia, Brown, Penn and Dartmouth) continued to offer Early Decision. Stanford offered Single Choice Early Action and Georgetown offered Restricted Early Action. The University of Virginia did end their Early Decision program.

Now it was recently announced that all three of these universities–Harvard, Princeton and UVA– have decided to reinstate their early application programs. In 2006, Harvard said that this was an experiment and the university would revisit the question and review the data regarding one decision deadline for all. Both Harvard and Princeton will adopt Single Choice Early Action and U VA will offer Early Action.

One thing you can be pretty sure of– the colleges make these decisions with their own best interests in mind, not necessarily the student’s. Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action and Single Choice Early Action still remain controversial but they seem to be here to stay. (For complete definitions of these terms, scroll back to my Oct. 14 blog)

Janet Rosier