The National Association for College Admissions Counseling voted Saturday to permit colleges to use single-choice, non-binding Early Action admissions policies, including the one Yale began using last year.

The decision, which came during the NACAC’s annual conference in Milwaukee, Wis., affects Yale, Harvard and Stanford universities, each of which has been using an early admissions policy that the NACAC did not previously endorse. The single-choice Early Action policy grants non-binding admission to accepted students with the stipulation that they only apply to one institution.

Though the NACAC’s policies are guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules, tension swirled in the association last year when Yale switched to its current single-choice Early Action policy. The single-choice policy had violated a rule from 2001 that required NACAC member colleges to allow applicants to submit applications to multiple schools. But Saturday’s decision ended a year-long stalemate during which the NACAC suspended enforcement of its rule and instead ordered an inquiry into admissions policies.

Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw could not be reached for comment this week.

Harvard College Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis said she is relieved that NACAC amended its policy. Still, Harvard planned to continue using its single-choice Early Action policy regardless of NACAC’s decision, even if the violation resulted in expulsion from the association.

“We’re trying very hard not to encourage a stampede among the students,” McGrath Lewis said, noting that the single-choice policy limits the number of schools students apply to early. “We think NACAC’s approval will be a step in the right direction.”

Rosita Fernandez-Rojo, director of college counseling at Choate Rosemary Hall, a preparatory school in Wallingford, said single-choice Early Action policies like Yale’s allow students to apply early without being locked into attending a school that does not provide sufficient financial aid. Fernandez-Rojo, who attended the NACAC conference, said she supports Yale’s policy.

“When Yale announced [its admissions policy], we were very happy,” she said. “We think it’s much more ethical and helpful for the development of the high school senior.”

Fernandez-Rojo said in the last year many of NACAC’s 212 elected delegates shifted their support in favor of the single-choice policy because they believed it helped reduce stress on applicants.

The vote to alter NACAC’s admissions guidelines occurred after a series of panel discussions on the efficacy and drawbacks of the single-choice Early Action policies employed at Yale, Harvard and Stanford.

Pete Caruso, chairman of the NACAC’s National Admissions Practices Committee, said the resolution passed “overwhelmingly.” But Caruso said a similar motion that was proposed in 2002 did not pass.

“It was a sea change among the membership,” Caruso said. “Previously, they didn’t even want to consider it, and two years later they’re overwhelmingly in favor.”

Though NACAC’s stance has changed, Caruso said the issue will not be fully resolved until the new rules are articulated in the association’s formal policies. Caruso’s committee has been assigned to “craft the language” of the policy, he said, and will complete it by September 2005 for presentation at next year’s annual conference in Tampa, Fla.

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