Princeton ends early admissions

Princeton University announced today that it will scrap its early admissions program, marking the second time in one week that one of Yale’s top competitors has switched to a single application deadline.

Princeton’s new policy will take effect for students applying to the Class of 2012 and beyond. Last Tuesday, Harvard University also announced that it would end early admissions beginning with the current class of high-school juniors, claiming that the program disadvantages students from low-income families and puts too much pressure on high school students. Harvard’s announcement sent shockwaves through the academic community, though Yale President Richard Levin said he was unsure whether Yale would follow Harvard’s lead.

“It is not clear that eliminating early admissions will result in the admission of more students from low-income families,” Levin said in a statement last week. “Since such students are underrepresented in the Ivy League applicant pool, what is really needed is what Harvard, Yale and others have been doing in recent years: that is making efforts to increase the pool of low-income students who apply and strengthening the financial aid package they receive.”

But Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said Tuesday that administrators concluded a single admission process would attract a more diverse applicant pool to the university.

“We agree that early admission ‘advantages the advantaged,’” Tilghman said in a press release. “Although we have worked hard in recent years to increase the diversity of our early decision applicants, we have concluded that adopting a single admissions process is necessary to ensure equity for all applicants.”

Last Thursday, Levin said Yale would conduct a formal review of its early admissions program later this year and would consider following Harvard’s — and now Princeton’s — lead.

Yale’s review, announced in the wake of Harvard’s decision to revert to a single admissions deadline, will be conducted before Harvard’s policy change takes effect next fall. But Levin said Harvard’s trial period without early admissions – currently set to last for two to three years – will continue to inform Yale’s shifting opinion of the program.

“Now we have a live experiment,” Levin said. “Harvard has made a move, and we’ll be thinking hard about it and watching it closely.”

According to a Princeton press release, applicants to the Class of 2012 will face a single admissions deadline, which has not been set, but could possibly be in mid to late December. Harvard has already announced that its new single admissions deadline will be Jan. 1.

Three years ago, Harvard and Yale both switched to single-choice early action policies, citing the inability of many low-income students to apply under binding early decision policies due to their need to compare financial aid packages. Under the single-choice early action program, students can apply only to one school early, but can then apply to multiple schools during the regular application cycle. Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also have single-choice early action policies. Until today’s announcement, Princeton had retained its binding early decision program.

Schools with early action or early decision programs generally accept a higher proportion of early applicants. Last year, 17.7 percent of early action applicants and 5.8 percent of regular decision applicants were accepted to Yale. Of the 4,084 early applicants, 724 were admitted. For regular decision, 1,099 of the 18,976 who applied were accepted.

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