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UPDATE: Harvard Announces Return of Early Action Admissions Program

Princeton joins Harvard in reinstating early admissions

By Gautam S. Kumar, Justin C. Worland, and Julie M. Zauzmer, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATE Feb. 25: Early Action To Return in Fall

Harvard announced today that its non-binding early action admissions program will return this fall for the Class of 2016.

The program, which was eliminated in 2007 due to concerns that it posed a disadvantage to low-income applicants, will prohibit students from applying early to other schools, while being non-binding.

In a statement, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said that offering an accelerated decision cycle for interested applicants will increase Harvard’s potential to attract top-caliber students.

“We looked carefully at trends in Harvard admissions these past years and saw that many highly talented students, including some of the best-prepared low-income and underrepresented minority students, were choosing programs with an early-action option, and therefore were missing out on the opportunity to consider Harvard,” he said.

In 2006, Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia made headlines by announcing within weeks of each other that early admissions practices at their schools would end.

Less than two hours after Harvard revealed its plan to resume early admissions this morning, Princeton also announced its plans to restore the early admissions program. Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said in a statement that she believed that bringing back an early program would allow her school to better recruit underrepresented groups.

"By reinstating an early program, we hope we can achieve two goals: provide opportunities for early application for students who know that Princeton is their first choice, while at the same time sustaining and even enhancing the progress we have made in recent years in diversifying our applicant pool," she said in the statement.

The University of Virginia had already rolled out an early action program this past November.

Harvard President Drew G. Faust said in a statement that the return of early action is now “consistent with our bedrock commitment to access, affordability, and excellence.”

Harvard has been reevaluating its decision to move to a single admissions cycle since early this academic year. In November, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in an interview with The Crimson that he did not expect any changes to the current program, but he added that "we’re a dynamic institution.”

While in 2006 Fitzsimmons heralded the single admissions notification date as “a win for students in the bottom quarter and bottom half of the income distribution,” earlier this month, he classified the move as an “experiment.”

When the College first removed early action admissions, then-Interim University President Derek C. Bok criticized the early round.

"We feel that if anybody is going to step up and take the lead to try to get rid of something which is really doing more harm than good in high schools across the country, it’s us,” Bok had said.

Harvard also said that it will add other recruiting programs in order to encourage greater transparency in college admissions and increase undergraduate involvement in the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, and “Return to High School Program”—existing endeavors which aim to heighten interest in Harvard among students of diverse backgrounds.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at

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