EA decision sparks debate

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In light of Yale’s decision to retain its early action program next year, many admissions experts said that Yale will see an increase in the number of early applications it receives next fall, though they disagreed about what impact the recent changes at Harvard and Princeton will have on the number of accepted students who choose to become members of Yale’s class of 2012.

Since Yale’s Jan. 4 announcement that the University will continue early admissions despite the Harvard and Princeton decision to eliminate their early programs, admissions experts around the country have been speculating about what the move will mean for elite colleges next year. While counselors for private firms and high schools had divergent predictions about what will happen to the number of students who apply to and choose to attend Yale, most agreed that the changes will ultimately have an inconsequential impact on the makeup of Yale’s incoming class.

Last week, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he does not yet know how to predict the number of early action applications Yale will receive next year.

“We might see an increase as some students utilize either the Yale or the Stanford or MIT nonbinding early action programs, while intending to apply later to Harvard or Princeton,” he said. “Other students may decide to apply to binding early decision schools because they would be willing to forego applying later to Harvard or Princeton if accepted at an early decision school they feel to be an excellent fit. Then again, many students who are strongly focused on Harvard or Princeton may simply wait until the regular process to file all of their applications.”

A 2004 study of where 3,200 top high school seniors chose to matriculate found that of students accepted into Harvard and Yale, only five in 17 attended Yale. But the study found that, when the choice was between Yale and Princeton, six of eight chose Yale, and nine of 15 students would chose Yale over Stanford.

Andrew Metrick, an associate professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an author of the study, said he thinks Yale will receive more early applications next year, but students with offers at both Yale and Harvard will be more like to choose Cambridge over New Haven. Nonetheless, he said, Yale’s early option could give the University a slight boost in its yield — the number of accepted students who choose to matriculate — as Yale will have more time to convince accepted students to attend. But overall, he said, Harvard’s apparently greater allure will not significantly disturb Yale’s yield.

“Harvard manages to win the head-to-head battles with other schools by a pretty convincing margin, but with Yale it’s not huge,” Metrick said.

Michele Hernandez, president and founder of Hernandez College Consulting, said the change in applications to Harvard and Princeton next year will be contingent on the number of applicants deferred or rejected from Yale early who choose to apply to those two schools, assuming that most of those Yale accepts early choose to attend Yale.

“In a weird way, Harvard and Princeton may end up getting the same number of applicants, but their quality may not be as high because they are people who didn’t get in early to Yale,” she said.

Applications to other Ivy League schools may also increase because of the popularity of early admissions, which is perceived to give students an edge in getting into a school, she said.

Some counselors said they have not often seen students apply early to schools that they would not consider top choices. Thus, they said, Yale’s numbers may not swell significantly with aspiring Tigers or Cantabs.

Martha Lyman, director of college advising at the private Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., and former Harvard admissions officer, said she thinks students accepted early to a school tend to matriculate there.

“The majority of my students who apply early action, particularly to the most highly selective schools, would be very happy with that and stick with it [if accepted],” she said. “But every year there would be maybe two or three students who would intend all along to apply to more places regular.”

Other counselors predicted that the overall effects of Yale’s decision to retain its early program will be negligible.

Sally Rubenstone, senior counselor and editor at the admissions Web site College Confidential and co-author of “Panicked Parents’ Guide to College Admissions,” said she thinks Yale will see fewer students accepting its offer of early admission, therefore decreasing its early yield. But the deficit will likely be negated by the applications of those students who would have applied early elsewhere, but now will feel a “sense of loyalty” to Yale when accepted early, she said.

Jon Reider, director of college counseling at San Francisco’s private University High School and a Stanford admissions officer from 1985 to 2000, said he agrees that Yale will receive many early applications from students who would have applied early to Harvard and Princeton. But due to the presence of competitors Stanford and MIT, which also have early admissions, Yale will not see a substantial increase, he said, and Harvard and Princeton will still fill their freshman classes with the same high-quality students.

“I’m thinking Yale is going to see some growth, but they’re not going to get thousands more,” Reider said. “I’d be shocked if Yale got 5,000 early [applicants].”

This fall, Yale received 3,594 early action applications.

Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, said applicants too often do not receive proper counseling during the admissions process, and, as a result, applicants think strategically about whether to apply early. High school seniors often apply where they think they will be accepted, he said, rather than considering which school might be the best fit. While he does not predict that Yale’s yield will differ dramatically next year, he said the real test of the University’s move will be whether the strength of the matriculating class changes.

“The lucky thing for Yale is that Yale can afford to see how it goes, and make the decision [on whether to retain early action] not just based on yield,” he said. “Did it deliver the kind of freshman class that we want to be walking this campus?” Sklarow said.

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