Princeton refuses to release early decision admit numbers

Likening the early admissions process to a sporting event, Princeton University Dean of Admission Fred Hargadon broke with recent Ivy League policy and declined to release statistics about how many students Princeton admitted early decision.

Hargadon’s criticism of the excessive publicity of early admissions comes amid a nationwide debate over early admissions practices. Princeton received 2,350 early applications this year, an 11 percent increase. Last year, Princeton admitted 45 percent of the freshman class early.

“The fact that we’ve always made almost two-thirds of our offers in regular decision (even when we had early action) is completely lost in treating admissions like a sporting event and in putting all the emphasis on the ‘first quarter score’ rather than how the game plays out and the sort of freshman classes we ultimately enroll,” Hargadon told the Daily Princetonian in an e-mail last week.

Hargadon, who will retire in June after 15 years as dean of admission, did not return phone calls placed over the last five days.

Yale President Richard Levin fueled the debate over early admissions in December 2001, when he announced that he hoped to abolish the practice. Last November, Levin announced Yale would switch from binding early decision to nonbinding early action. Levin said he hoped other schools would follow Yale’s lead in de-emphasizing the early admissions process.

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said he thought the decision whether or not to release the numbers was an individual one. The Yale admissions office announced last week that it admitted 557 early applicants out of 2,611, 43 percent of the Class of 2007.

“It’s institutional prerogative to decide what you’re going to do,” Shaw said. “I’m not going to question the decision — that’s very much a college-based decision.”

Princeton University Communications Director Lauren Robinson-Brown said Hargadon has the right, as dean, to do what he sees fit with the numbers.

“He has made a decision not the release the statistics and is under no obligation to do so,” she said.

Robinson-Brown said she thinks Hargadon wants to make clear that early and regular admissions are part of the same process of accepting a new class, a process that is not completed until April.

“He does believe that there has been heightened publicity surrounding early admissions and he does not believe that the publicity helps the admissions process,” she said. “His decision is that he would rather the class be looked at as a full class and not in pieces.”

Next year, the new Princeton dean of admission will review all admissions policies and could choose to change the new policy, Robinson-Brown said. At that time, she said, other changes to early decision could also be considered.

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