Nearly three weeks after Early Action applications were due to the Yale College Office of Admissions, Yale President Richard Levin said that the more than 50 percent increase in applications under the new nonbinding program was a step toward eliminating early admissions programs altogether.
When Levin announced last November that Yale would switch from Early Decision to single-choice Early Action, he said he hoped the move would be a first step toward abolishing all early admissions programs, a move Yale officials have said would benefit students seeking financial aid and flexibility. This year, Stanford and Harvard also switched to single-choice Early Action and both found dramatic fluctuations in their application numbers.
Now that Yale’s first cycle of Early Action applications is complete, Levin said he is optimistic about the results.
“The improvements we made are a major gain in themselves,” he said. “[But] I would prefer to see [early admissions] disappear altogether.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said Yale received 3,928 Early Action applications, according to current counts, up from a preliminary estimate of 3,700, meaning applications are up more than 50 percent from the 2,611 submitted under Early Decision last year.
Harvard, which switched from a more liberal Early Action program that allowed students to apply to multiple schools, received approximately 4,000 applications, down from 7,615 last year. Stanford, which switched from Early Decision, saw its application numbers jump to 4,000 from 2,400 last year.
“What I’m hoping is that other schools will follow Yale and Stanford and Harvard in having Early Action replace Early Decision,” Levin said.
Students who applied to Yale under Early Decision were forbidden to send early applications to other universities and were bound to matriculate if admitted. Under single-choice Early Action, students are still prohibited from applying to other colleges’ early admissions programs, but they are not bound to attend Yale if they are admitted.
Princeton, which maintained its binding Early Decision program this year, saw a 23 percent drop in applications.
Levin said Yale’s application spike should cause Princeton to consider abandoning its Early Decision program.
“I think the success of this policy speaks louder than words,” he said. “At some point, high school parents, students and counselors will start to pressure schools. And I don’t think Princeton will want to be thought of as unfriendly to its customers.”
“I have no desire to convince another school,” he said. “We tried the system [Princeton] had and came to think better [of] it — [Colleges should] make their own decisions about that.”
Enthusiasm over Yale’s application increase should be tempered by considering admissions as more than just a numbers game, Brodhead said.
“I don’t take the point of view that high numbers are a goal in themselves,” he said. “I’m delighted that so many people want to come here, and they’re not wrong, but I don’t regard admissions numbers as an end in itself.”
Director of University Financial Aid Myra Smith said the switch from Early Decision to Early Action was a good move because students who were admitted to Yale under Early Decision were unable to compare financial aid packages from other schools because they signed a binding agreement with Yale before they applied.
She said schools offering nonbinding early programs give students a better chance to explore financial aid options.
“The student will come to us with a broader sense of the availability of financial aid elsewhere,” she said.
Smith said Early Decision may have prevented people who needed financial aid from coming to Yale.