Brown University will join all Ivy League schools, with the exception of Harvard University, in offering a binding early decision admissions policy for its class of 2006, Brown Interim President Sheila Blumstein said Saturday.
The non-binding program has caused severe admissions staffing shortages and led to a less diverse early applicant pool since 1999, when Brown was forced to allow its early action applicants to apply to multiple schools early, Brown’s Director of College Admissions Michael Goldberger said. In addition to accepting this change, the Brown Corporation continued discussing whether the school will offer full need-blind admissions, which it currently does not.
Brown’s future president Ruth Simmons has requested that Brown does not make the need-blind decision until after she takes office July 1, but a full need-blind policy is likely, Goldberger said. Brown is currently the only Ivy League school not offering need-blind admissions for all domestic applicants. Brown is need-blind for about the first 90 percent of accepted students, then accepts the rest of its class with financial needs in mind.
Brown received 5,242 early action applications for the class of 2005, a 65 percent increase from the class of 2003, the last class in which early action was restricted to one school. And Brown saw an unprecedented increase of 1,922 applications for the class of 2004 after the National Association for College Admission Counseling announced in 1999 that non-binding programs — such as Brown and Harvard’s — could not limit their applicants from applying to more than one school under the early action policy.
“You just couldn’t do as good of a job with twice as many applications,” Goldberger said. “That just really overwhelmed our office. People just couldn’t handle it.”
Besides the mass of applications, Brown was seeing a less diverse group with the liberalized early action policy because it was students from advantaged backgrounds who had the money and guidance to apply to four or five schools early, Goldberger said. Many of these students also applied to colleges like Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Brown will likely receive far fewer applications next year. When Yale shifted from a non-binding early policy to its current binding policy in 1992, the University’s early application numbers decreased to 1,000, a drop of approximately 600. Yale’s early application rose back up to over 1,650 this year.
Goldberger said his school would have continued to offer a non-binding policy if early applicants were applying only to Brown.
Goldberger echoed the sentiment of many directors of colleges with binding early decision programs that students applying early need to be committed to attending that school.
Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said last fall that Yale is firm in its binding policy.
“I believe that students should apply to one university early,” Shaw said. “Students should make a conscious decision that it is their first choice. Early is not about just covering your bases.”
Harvard’s Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis has said Harvard is committed to its non-binding program, believing that students should be able to consider which school to attend until the last moment.