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Growth in Early Applications Slows

By Keith J. Lo, Contributing Writer

The flood of early applications to Harvard has slowed this year, ending the consistently large increases that the admissions office has seen over the past few years.

Although early applications came to admission offices in record numbers this year, the increases in early action applications at Harvard were far less dramatic than last year when Harvard, Brown and Georgetown decided to allow prospective students to apply early action to more than one school at a time.

Harvard College received 6,098 early action applications this November, as compared to 6,026 last November, a 1.2 percent gain--far from the 31.8 percent jump last year.

The statistics for Brown and Georgetown are just as telling.

Early applications rose 5.6 percent this year at Brown compared to the school's whopping 67.6 percent increase last year.

And Georgetown saw a 10.4 percent change in early applications, compared to its 46 percent increase last year.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said that he doesn't find the figures disappointing, but instead is "glad the number has stabilized."

In an e-mail message, Lewis wrote that Harvard sees early action as "decidedly preferable" for students, giving students ample time to analyze all their options.

"We very strongly believe that students should not be 'trapped' into coming to Harvard because of an application they filled out in the early fall of their senior year in high school," Lewis wrote.

Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70-'73, director of undergraduate admissions, said the slow growth of early action applicants to Harvard does not worry the admissions office.

Referring to the admissions process, McGrath Lewis said, "We think that sanity has increased."

She said that Harvard has a long-term commitment to the early action program and does not foresee a change to binding early decision.

"We have no reason to change," McGrath Lewis said. "We have a philosophical point of view that the senior year is important. We want students to have that.... We see no advantage of binding early pressure.... We want students to be where they want to be."

Indeed, several first-years said they are thankful for early action.

"It cuts down a lot of stress. You know exactly what's going on," said Tariq M. Yasin '04. "You have a lot of freedom."

"I think that students don't feel pressured to commit," said Zachary L. Bercu '04. "It causes less tension in the process."

Outside of Harvard, however, support for early action may be less solid. Some proponents of binding early decision applications have argued that early action puts unnecessary stress on admissions officials and applicants, since the college inevitably accepts some students who are unsure whether they will matriculate.

The Brown Daily Herald reported early this month that Michael Goldberger, director of the Brown College admissions office, said, "There is a strong sentiment that an early decision policy is best for the admissions office, [Brown] University, and for the applicants."

Students accepted under early action in mid-December are not obliged to enroll and have until May 1, the common reply date, to decide which school they will attend.

By contrast, early decision applications--used by most colleges--are binding and compel accepted students to attend in the fall.

Early decision schools are still registering significant increases in early applications--Yale, Princeton, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania all announced gains from 10 percent to 16 percent this year.

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