Applying in the Fall

Applying in the fall

Many schools have implemented a system through which students can apply at a time other than the most common usual deadline of January first of the senior year, to lighten the load on students and admissions officers. Several reports suggest an increase in early admissions.

Many open slots for students at many private universities begin to fill up early in a student's senior year of high school. One estimate is that a third of slots for next year's freshman class are filled by December, which is an increase from one-fifth ten years ago. Another estimate suggests 45% of positions are taken by December. There are reports for specific schools filling up by December 2011 for the 2012-2013 freshman year. For example, American University filled 31% of its class; Columbia 45%, Davidson 40%, Emory 32%, Hamilton 38%, Kenyon 29%, Middlebury 45%, Sarah Lawrence 21%, Smith 20%, and others.

Numerous reports suggest that more students are applying using early decision or early action approaches. Schools such as Duke University, Haverford College, and the University of Chicago reported increases in early applications in 2011. While early applications had been used by many students in prep schools and top high schools primarily in the northeastern United States, they are being used by a more diverse group of students including foreigners and minority applicants to apply to more colleges. A downside of applying early is an inability to compare competing aid packages from different schools, but to an extent this can be mitigated if parents and students ask the college for a fairly firm estimate of expected costs before applying by an early method. Several sources suggested that early admissions programs favor students from wealthier families since there was no need to compare financial aid offers. Adviser Michele Hernandez suggested that the early decision and early action candidate pools were "much more homogeneous" with most applicants being affluent white students. High-end academic applicants tended to want to have a choice, while minority applicants needed to compare scholarship offers from different colleges; accordingly, these latter two groups tended to avoid early applications. According to Hernandez, Ivy League financial aid packages were similar whether one applied early admission or regular admission, since the Ivies are 100% need blind meaning that they do not take into account an applicant's ability to pay. Early applicants are urged to submit applications in September and October, and not wait until November, so staff more time to consider the application. There has been controversy surrounding early admissions programs, since there have been reports that most of those accepted in early admissions tended to be white, from good high schools and having upscale family incomes. A report in US News suggested that early admissions approaches were not advised for students who were obviously under or over qualified, dependent on financial aid, undecided, behind in their college search plans, or late bloomers.