As Yale approaches the implementation of its new early action policy, which will prohibit students from applying early elsewhere, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling has temporarily suspended a rule that would have contradicted Yale’s new policy.

In response to announcements this past year by Yale, Harvard and Stanford universities, NACAC — a coalition of college counselors and college admissions and financial aid officers — will reassess its guidelines about early action, said Martin Wilder, NACAC vice president for admission, counseling and enrollment practices. Although the organization’s policy states that early applicants “may apply to other colleges without restriction,” the new policies at Yale, Harvard and Stanford stipulate that applicants, beginning with the Class of 2008, cannot do so.

“At this point NACAC is re-examining the whole issue relating to the admission plans and our standards,” Wilder said. “Certainly, [Yale, Stanford and Harvard’s] announcements were the major driving force in the decision by NACAC.”

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said he was happy to learn of NACAC’s decision to reconsider its stance on early action and other admissions practices.

“We’re pleased that they’ve decided to sort of take some time off and review the policy as it exists, and we would be pleased to be part of that discussion,” he said. “I think [the moratorium] is good because it allows more time and more input.”

Over the next two years, the Steering Committee on Admissions Practices, composed of both high school-level and college-level NACAC members, will do research on admissions policies and propose a recommendation. At the 2005 national conference, the NACAC Assembly will vote on that recommendation. During NACAC’s 2001 conference, the Assembly voted unanimously to add the words “without restriction” to the Definitions of Admission Decision Options, reflecting the prevailing views of early action at the time.

NACAC Director of Professional Development Judy Hingle said it is important to remember that NACAC exists to serve its members.

“It’s not like it’s a law — it’s a different kind of thing,” she said. “When we have some folks who are that far out of the consensus we have established, it tells us we need to look at what’s going on.”

While it is difficult to predict what changes the committee might recommend, Hingle said the interests of students will remain the highest consideration.

“It’s very much our trying to meet the needs of our member colleges and high schools,” she said. “The focus for us is what is most beneficial to the students.”

NACAC’s decision means that this year’s applicants need to remember that there is not one consistent policy about early admissions, Shaw said.

“Students this year need to be very attentive to the specific policies of the campus they’re applying to, rather than trying to approach applying early on the basis of a national policy,” he said.