Abolishing early action deadline could help level playing field

To the Editor:

As a graduate of a public high school in rural North Carolina, I can testify to the daunting process of college admissions. As a high school senior, the furthest thing from my mind was the possibility of attending an Ivy League university, let alone sending in an early application months in advance of the typical college deadlines. When the time came to finalize applications, I tossed in an application to Yale on a whim, as a wild “what if?” Four years later, I am immeasurably thankful for that impulsive act. Had I known then that by forgoing early application I had reduced my chances of acceptance from 17.7 to 5.8 percent, I likely would have saved myself the $50 application fee and turned my attentions to more realistic aspirations.

Albeit hesitantly, I applaud Harvard University’s decision to eliminate early admissions. In doing so, they have helped to even the playing field for those of us who haven’t been thinking Ivy since the seventh grade. Such an action will inevitably benefit those qualified applicants whose awareness of elite academia is limited, often (and sadly) students from minority and lower income neighborhoods. Yet this action is only a tentative first step. Accepting that intelligence is spread out broadly and without bias across racial and economic groups, the status quo, in which “four out of five Yale students are drawn from areas wealthier … and less diverse than the norm,” is simply not good enough.

There is work still to be done, and initiatives such as the Student Ambassadors Program are valuable tools that deserve broader administrative support.

I believe Yale would do well to first emulate the simple and productive step taken by Harvard, and then move well beyond it, thinking critically and creatively about the important issue of student diversity.

Andrew Baker ’08

Sept. 13, 2006