Last fall, Tim Brandt ’06 had issues with commitment.
Even though Yale was one of his top two college choices, Brandt applied early to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I felt kind of scared of early decision,” he said.
Yale President Richard Levin announced last December that he wanted to change Yale’s early decision policy to benefit high school students like Brandt. Levin said he hoped he could find a solution that would give the “senior year experience” back to high school students.
Levin announced Wednesday that Yale will abandon its binding early admissions policy beginning with the class of 2008. Yale will require early applicants to apply exclusively to Yale, but students would still be allowed to apply to other institutions through the regular admissions process. High school students and Yalies alike agree that there are some benefits to a non-binding policy, but it is unclear whether the new policy will actually move back the college process for high school students.
In addition to allowing applicants more time to make their college decisions, a non-binding policy may provide more options for students applying for financial aid. Deborah Head, a college counselor at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, Calif., said the new policy would allow some students who previously would not have applied under early decision the opportunity to do so.
“[Early decision applicants are] signing off on a promise to say they’re going to go to that school no matter what, and they don’t find out about the financial aid package until much later,” Head said.
Head said her school does not usually encourage students to apply under early decision, but the new policy will no longer hold students accountable in the same way.
In pushing for the changes, Levin also said he wanted to dissuade applicants who were committing to Yale in order to gain an advantage in the admissions process.
But Daniel Weiner, a high school senior from Riverdale, N.Y., who applied early to the class of 2007, said he thought the new policy might make the process even more competitive and strategic.
“There are those people who apply early because they want to play that game,” Weiner said. “This new policy will make that more likely.”
But Brandt ’06 disagreed.
“It’s a step in the right direction toward making it less of a game,” Brandt said.
Keats Jarmon, a college counselor at Hall High School in West Hartford, said she thinks Yale’s new policy is wonderful, since students often change their minds during their senior year.
“I think that that gives students many more options and takes the pressure off,” she said. “I hope that [Yale] will lead the way in terms of other Ivy League universities and selective colleges.”
Hopkins School senior Paige Rossetti, who has been featured in a Yale Daily News series on early applicants, said she supports moving to a non-binding policy because it is difficult for students to know where they want to go to college so early in the year.
But former early applicant Sam Chu ’06 said he thought early decision can actually simplify the application process.
“You’re set on where you’re going [under a binding policy],” he said.
Steve Shadman ’06, who applied early last year, said he knew where he wanted to go by the Nov. 1 deadline. He said he has no problem with early decision and always thought early action seemed “a little silly.”
“It just says ‘Well, I have the opportunity of sending in my stuff three months early,'” Shadman said.
Megan Powers, who is also featured in the early decision series, said she thought the change made the process less intimidating. But she said she is secure enough that Yale is her first choice that a change in the policy would not have altered her decision.
Weiner said he was happy with the former policy because he knew he wanted to attend Yale over any other college.
“For those who don’t know, [the new policy is] a good idea. It gives [them] more time to consider their options,” Weiner said. “Personally, I’m very happy [with the former policy].”