The number of early applications to Yale for the Class of 2009 dropped this year by 3 percent, a year after Yale saw a 55 percent increase in undergraduate early applications, Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said Thursday.

Shaw said the admissions office had received 3,926 early applications as of Thursday, about 100 applications shy of the 4,049 early applications received in 2003, the first year applicants could apply under Yale’s non-binding, single-choice early action plan. Yale officials attributed the slight decrease to a stabilization of early applications in the second year of the early action policy.

Although Harvard and Princeton universities both reported increases in their early application numbers this year, Yale administrators said they were pleased with Yale’s admissions trends.

“It’s a solid, good applicant group and we’re really pleased,” Shaw said. “It’s very manageable.”

Yale President Richard Levin, who has been a national presence advocating single-choice early action plans, said he was not concerned with this year’s decline in early applications. He said administrators expected all along that the number of early action applications would remain relatively stable this year.

“We had a huge increase in applications when we went to single-choice early action,” Levin said. “I would interpret these numbers as essentially level with last year.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he was satisfied that the early action application figures remained on par with last year’s high.

“We’re pleased that when the dust settles it looks like this year’s numbers will be much like last year’s,” Salovey said. “And last year was an amazing year for admissions in essentially every respect.”

Early applicants are scheduled to find out their admissions status in mid-December through a secure Yale Web site. Shaw said expects the number of regular decision applications to mirror statistics from last year, when Yale received over 15,600 regular applications.

Harvard, which is also offering single-choice, non-binding early action for the second year, received 4,165 early applications this fall, the Harvard Crimson reported this week. Harvard slightly surpassed Yale this year in early action applications with a 7.2 percent increase from its total last year.

Princeton, which offers a standard early decision option, has received exactly 2,000 early applications as of Thursday, up 10 percent from last year, the Daily Princetonian reported.

In an interview with the News Thursday, Princeton Admissions Dean Janet Rapelye said she was pleased with her school’s jump in applications, which she attributed to the use of a Web-based application.

“That for us is new, and that seems to have made the difference,” Rapelye said.

Yale’s relatively stable early application totals suggest that the single-choice early action policy adopted by Yale and peer institutions last year has stabilized the early application process, Shaw said.

“It’s where we expected to be,” Shaw said. “It suggests that single-choice early action has settled the marketplace.”

Shaw said he thinks the single-choice early action plan, also in effect at Stanford, has helped to calm students and parents during the application process.

“I think that there’s not as wild a frenzy with students applying all over the place early now,” Shaw said. “We’re pleased with the influence of having students apply early to just one school.”

Under Yale’s single-choice early action policy, students can only apply to one school early, but they are not bound to attend that school if admitted. Previously, Yale had used an early decision policy, under which students could only apply to one school early and were obligated to matriculate if accepted.

Shaw said his office has not started to analyze the demographics of the early applicant pool, but he expects to begin compiling such data in the near future.

— Staff Reporter Jeff Muskus contributed to this report.

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