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March 4, 2011

Harvard, Princeton to join U of C in early admissions

Harvard University and Princeton University will join the U of C in offering non-binding early action admissions programs, following two announcements, just an hour apart, last Thursday. University of Chicago administrators say that the switch will not affect the college’s admissions.

Although the processes will be non-binding, Harvard and Princeton will restrict early applicants to applying early to just one school, unlike U of C. 

Both universities eliminated binding early decision programs in 2007, enacting a single round of regular decision for all applicants so as not to favor wealthier applicants who do not need to consider financial aid packages.

The University does not expect that the new options will affect its number of early applicants, University spokesman Manier said. 

This year, early applications rose 18.5 percent at the U of C, keeping with the overall trend of rising applications to the University.

About a third of U of C applicants applied early action this year, and the number continues to rise, Manier said. 

“In general, the idea is to give prospective students some different options and this one [early action] gives them a lot of choice and doesn’t close off options if they decide to apply here early,” assistant director of admissions Evan Cudworth said.

While accepted early decision students are bound to one school regardless of the financial aid package, early action applicants receive early estimates of financial aid, which allows students to better consider their financial plans before deciding between schools. 

“If finances are a factor, applying early action can be more helpful for students. Non-binding is more helpful for students who are waiting for financial offers,” said third-year Chen Feng, who applied early to the U of C.

According to Cudworth, the U of C offers non-binding early action to draw a variety of applicants. “The goal is to attract as diverse an applicant pool as possible,” he said.

Princeton also cited the diversity of an early applicant pool as a reason for the shift, wrote Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye in News at Princeton on February 24.

Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith told the Harvard Crimson that the admissions department “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.”

At both Harvard and Princeton, the new option will be offered to next year’s applicants, who will form the class of 2016.

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