Harvard College Considers Bringing Back Early Admissions Policy

Harvard College’s admissions office will announce whether it will bring back an early admissions program within the next several months, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in an interview earlier this week.

“By the time spring comes around, we’ll have to have made a decision,” Fitzsimmons said.

Harvard decided to eliminate its non-binding early action program in 2006. At the time, College officials stated that the early admissions program—regarded by many as an advantage in the admissions process—disproportionately benefited affluent students, who were more likely to have access to resources that could help them prepare their applications for an early deadline.

In addition, the College claimed that the binding nature of many early admissions programs at other universities discouraged less wealthy students from applying, because they would not be able to compare the financial aid packages offered to them before choosing a college in which to matriculate.

Despite the College’s strong stance against the program five years ago, this week Fitzsimmons described the elimination of early action as “an experiment” that his office underwent when it decided to get rid of the program.

According to Fitzsimmons, his office always intended to reevaluate the merits of the decision after five years.

“The world changes, so you have to see where you are at the end of that time,” Fitzsimmons said.

The University of Virginia and Princeton University both announced their intentions to eliminate their early admissions programs shortly after Harvard did in 2006.

While Princeton has not indicated that it is considering bringing back such an offering, Virginia unveiled a new early action program last fall that will be in effect for applicants to its class of 2016.

Under the option, students will be free to apply early to as many schools as they choose.

“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,” Virginia Dean of Admission Gregory W. Roberts told The Crimson this past December. “We felt like we will be able to enroll the same type of class ... and also respond to student interest.”

Roberts, along with Princeton representatives, declined to comment for this story.

Fitzsimmons would not specify which type of early program—the binding early decision option or the non-binding early action—Harvard would employ, should it bring back an early admissions option.

Amy Sack, president of college counseling firm Admissions Accomplished, said that Harvard’s lack of an early admissions program has not discouraged her students from applying to the College. According to Sack, students who want to attend Harvard usually apply early to comparable schools such as Stanford University or Yale University, both of which offer non-binding early action admissions programs.

“I think it would be nice for them to be able to indicate that Harvard is their first choice. It would let them not have to play the game as much,” she said. “I think my students would be happy if Harvard brings it back.”

In 2006, the last year early admission was offered, Harvard received 4,008 early action applications.

The early acceptance rate was 21.5 percent compared to below nine percent overall.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

Tags