Early-Action Program Flawed
In December, Harvard made 1,048 New Year's parties that much happier with early-action admissions to the Class of 2002, potentially 48 percent of the class. As the number of early-action applicants and acceptances continue to rise under Harvard's non-binding system, we question what negative effects may be developing unnoticed.
What is our concern? We fear that early-action may be creating a two-tiered accepted group with different standards and different demographics. Students who apply early are more likely to be at schools with good counseling systems and the advantage of good college advice long before senior fall. But for students at schools where this is not the case, their chance of being admitted will go down with every early admittee.
This problematic trend stretches far beyond Harvard, of course; the entire application season has become preempted by early applications, which alter the competitiveness of a school's applicant pool and its financial aid picture.
Harvard, as a leading school in early and regular applicants, can provide some lessons. The early pool is also less diverse than the regular pool, especially in the number of African-Americans (only 5 percent of those admitted to the Class of 2002 were African-American, compared with an average of 11 percent within the current undergraduate classes)--a glaring distortion.
Adequate high school counseling is by no means universal, and even with the respectable breadth of Harvard recruiting, not every potential student is reached in time for them to consider early-action. As the number of early-action acceptances continue to rise, we question what Harvard and other schools who determine a large portion of their class early are giving up in the process.