In September 2006, Harvard and Princeton decided to no longer allow students to apply for early college admission, starting in the Fall 2008 semester. They made this decision in order to help students who needed to compare financial aid offers from different schools compete with wealthier students who applied earlier and did not need to wait for financial aid offers.
“In eliminating our early program four years ago, we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same, and they haven’t,” said Shirley Tilghman, the president of Princeton. “One consequence is that some students who really want ot make their college decision as early as possible in their senior year apply to other schools early, even if their first choice is Princeton.”
To combat this problem, both schools are reinstating their early-admissions programs. This will allow high school seniors who apply by November 15, 2011 to know if they have been accepted by December 15, 2011, without having to commit to the school if they are accepted. This will also allow the early-accepted students to wait for financial offers before committing to attend the schools.
“At many high schools it was very common to have 60, 70, 80 percent of the students applying early, and we heard rumors that in some cases, it went up to 100 percent,” said Harvard’s dean of admissions, William Fitzsimmons.
This trend of applying early to colleges was costing Harvard and Princeton some top-notch students who really wanted to attend these prestigious universities.
“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 Michael Smith, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Today, almost one-fourth of four-year colleges allow students to apply for early decision. A few offer non-binding early action, but many offer binding early decision only. Stanford and Yale are two that offer a single-choice, non-binding option; now Harvard and Princeton will join them.