After years of steady growth, early applications to Ivy League schools have dropped almost 14 percent this fall.

The change in numbers was by no means uniform across the Ancient Eight — Yale saw a large increase, Harvard and Princeton large losses, and other schools had only slight changes. The shifts followed changes in early application policies at Yale and Harvard instituted this fall.

While Yale’s applications increased by 55 percent, Harvard and Princeton universities had large losses, at about 47 and 24 percent, respectively. Brown University, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania had modest gains, while Columbia University had a slight loss. Cornell University will not release its numbers until next week.

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said he thinks Ivy numbers are lower than in the past because early admissions changes at several schools encouraged students who applied early to send fewer applications.

“[The Ivies] probably have many fewer multiple applications,” he said. “I think it makes everything more manageable.”

Yale’s rise in applications has been attributed to its elimination of Early Decision, which bound students who applied early to matriculate if admitted. Under Single-Choice Early Action, the new system put in place for the Class of 2008, prospective students may only apply early to Yale, but are not required to attend upon admission. Yale had 2,611 early applications last year and 4,046 this year, Shaw said.

Harvard also switched to Single-Choice Early Action this year from an Early Action program under which students were not restricted from applying to multiple schools. Harvard received 7,615 early applications last year and less than 4,000 this year.

Princeton witnessed the biggest change among Early Decision schools. Its early applications dropped from 2,413 to 1,820. Columbia also saw a slight decrease, dropping to 2,018 applications from 1,942 last year.

Three other schools with Early Decision policies saw minor gains this fall. Penn’s early applications went up from 2,466 to 2,509, Dartmouth’s from 1,817 to 1,905 and Brown’s from 1,817 to 1,905.

Cornell will not release its Early Decision numbers until next week, Cornell associate provost for admissions and enrollment Doris Davis said.

High school counselors differed as to whether the shifts in application numbers were due to policy changes.

Dan Murphy, director of college counseling at the Urban School of San Francisco, said none of his fellow college counselors knew exactly what prompted fewer students to apply early.

“None of us can figure out what any of this has to do with anything,” he said.

Murphy said at his school about 25 students, out of a senior class of around 60, normally apply early. This fall, though, only 18 did.

But Dave Velasquez, director of admissions and college counseling at the Brentwood School in Los Angeles, said he found that Single-Choice Early Action programs are more helpful for students than binding programs.

“I’m sure that obviously affected some kids,” he said. “It’s really nice to have a number of schools on your plate in April. Now they’re only applying to one place, and hopefully it’s their first choice. It’s not surprising that numbers are down.”

Sharon Merrow Cuseo, dean of seniors at Harvard-Westlake School, said more Harvard-Westlake students applied early this year than in the past, but fewer sent out multiple early applications.

“I think a big reason for that [change] is the fact that they are switching to Early Action as opposed to Early Decision, so people who aren’t quite ready to commit but want to get in on the Early Action plan [apply early],” she said.