Ending Early College Admissions

For the past few days, the headlines in most education news read that Harvard University has ended its early admission practice. This means that high school seniors can no longer apply to the school in October and receive a response in December rather than waiting until the spring to hear back from the college of choice.

Since it has been a few years since I applied to any college, and I have a few more years until my children will be making a decision about where to attend college, I had only a passing interest in the story. My interest was piqued when I saw that Princeton has now followed Harvard’s lead in ending early admissions.

The main drawback to early admissions as cited in a recent New York Times article is that it “Force(s) low-income students to commit to the university before they could compare financial aid offers from various universities.” Early admissions programs gained popularity in the 1950’s and now allows for admitting up to half of the incoming freshman class at some colleges. The main advantage of a student applying early to a university, especially well sought after schools, is that they have a better chance of gaining admissions than if they wait to apply and end up in the pool with the rest of the applicants. In other words, their applications stand out more primarily due to the lack of competition.

Most agree that early admissions typically best serves people who have more resources to make an early application. The resources include hiring private college counselors to help with the application process, and more knowledgeable high school counselors in more well to do neighborhoods. Harvard noted that many of their early applications are from well to do students who have more financial resources to begin with, which makes the admissions process unfair.

Will this move change the landscape of college admissions and truly give disadvantaged populations a better chance of furthering their education? Time will tell. I think it still boils down to the students and their family’s ability to pay for college, whether through financial aid or other means and being able keep up with the pressures of high school and teenage life.