Harvard Examining Early Admissions

College reviews decision to eliminate early admissions

The College is reevaluating its three-year-old decision to eliminate early admissions, Harvard’s top admissions official acknowledged yesterday.

In an interview with The Crimson, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 praised the outcome of Harvard’s single admissions cycle over the past three years but said that an extensive review of the admissions procedure is underway and will conclude in a few months.

“We’re in the midst of a major study,” Fitzsimmons said. “At the moment, we don’t anticipate any changes, but we’re a dynamic institution.”

Fitzsimmons’ comments came in response to an announcement by the University of Virginia that it plans to offer a new Early Action option to students applying next year.

In Sept. 2006, Harvard announced that it would no longer offer its Early Action program, which allowed high-school seniors to receive an admissions decision in December but did not mandate that they attend if accepted. Within the month, Princeton and Virginia followed suit, cancelling their Early Decision programs, which had similar timing but bound accepted students to attend, in favor of a single admissions notification date.

The three schools have jointly conducted 18-city recruiting tours since the announcement of the decision, and some officials acknowledged at the time that they hoped other top universities would follow suit in eliminating early admissions programs.

All three schools said at the time that early admissions programs were unfavorable to less affluent students, who sometimes forgo the programs in order to apply to many universities during the regular decision cycle and compare financial aid offers from different schools.

Virginia Dean of Admission Gregory W. Roberts said yesterday that the elimination of Early Decision has indeed increased diversity at his university.

“Socioeconomically and racially, the enrolling classes for the past three years have been significantly more diverse,” Roberts said. But he added that the school’s new Early Action program—which allows applicants to apply to other schools’ early admissions programs concurrently and does not compel them to attend Virginia if admitted—will not discourage underprivileged students from applying.

“From a university institutional self-interest perspective, we felt like there were students we were missing who were interested in applying and receiving early notification,” Roberts said. “We felt like we will be able to enroll the same type of class...and also respond to student interest.”

Fitzsimmons said that Harvard has been reviewing the success of its single application cycle every year. This year, he said, a particularly in-depth review is underway. Fitzsimmons said the study will conclude in time for application materials for next year’s admissions season to be printed.

Marlene A. Rubin, a college access counselor at a public magnet high school in Texas, said she thought several students at her school would apply early to Harvard if the option existed.

“I think Harvard and Princeton are always going to get applicants no matter what they offer,” Rubin said.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at jzauzmer@college.harvard.edu.

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