While the numbers are not yet in, the outcome is all but certain.
More students than ever before most likely submitted early Yale applications last night — the deadline — and over recent weeks. In full swing now is that grueling admissions game reminiscent of early 20th-century baseball: thrilling, perhaps, but unfair at its core.
Meanwhile, no such applications went to Princeton or Harvard, two of the universities that eliminated early admissions last year. Officials there claim to be taking the high road: eliminating early decision and action, their logic goes, makes the admissions process more fair. Admissions employees can spend more time recruiting diverse, lower-income students, and the applicant playing field can be made more level.
Such goals, we agree, are noble; attempts by leading universities to make admissions fairer are always admirable.
But beyond the compassion of their claims, the argument against early admissions ultimately falls flat.
Eliminating early programs are, at this stage, largely empty gestures — and Yale is right to hold its ground.
First, the theory that canceling early decision will do more for low-income applicants is grounded in speculation, not specific data. And if the admissions game is corrupt — which it is — the change won’t mean much: lower-ranked schools will still keep early programs for their recruitment efforts and well preped students will soon adapt — if not this year, then next — until they have a leg up on their less privileged peers.
In other words, early admissions does not necessarily discourage the students for whom the application game requires financial strategy from applying to Yale.
But we all know what does: money.
Yale’s financial aid policies are notoriously lacking when compared to the same peer institutions that struck early applications. And therein lies the real problem.
Yale, it has been argued, lost the chance to take the lead on the question surrounding early admissions — but in acting swiftly and boldly, and by not hiding behind the still unproven theory that a change in the admissions schedule will mean a fairer admissions outcome, it still can take the lead on actually achieving the ends set forth by Harvard and Princeton.
1. Hire more outreach officials whose responsibility it would be to spend the fall months recruiting in inner cities. They would not read applications.
2. Eliminate the parental contribution for families earning less than $70,000.
3. Direct more resources toward the aid office so matching packages can become a reality for all students.
4. Distinguish Yale’s Internet presence from that of other Ivy schools by providing a virtual campus online so that potential applicants without the means to travel far can feel as if they have visited Yale and New Haven.
5. We can help, too. Consider channeling funds earmarked for outreach into student groups. Then require — with proper auditing — that the $100 to $1000 allotted for recruitment reaches 100 or 1,000 students. As a school known for its Eli-to-Eli pride and extracurricular prowess, why not?
Early admissions should stay for now. But that does not mean the fundamental problem must linger.