In a move that surprised Yale officials and may put increased pressure on the University to end its early action program, Princeton University announced Monday afternoon that it will eliminate its own early admissions deadline beginning next year.
Following a similar announcement at Harvard last Tuesday, Princeton’s move marks the second time in the past week that one of Yale’s top competitors has switched to a single application deadline. Leaders at both institutions have said early admissions programs put too much pressure on high school students and disadvantage students from low-income families in particular. Higher education experts said the second school’s abolition of early admissions will shift the focus of attention to Yale, particularly in light of Yale President Richard Levin’s suggestion last week that such a move can only succeed if most of the University’s peer institutions follow suit.
Yale Corporation fellow Len Baker ’64 said Princeton’s announcement caught the members of Yale’s highest decision-making body off-guard.
“It was a surprise to me that Harvard did it, but it is a surprise that Princeton did it, as well,” Baker said.
Princeton’s move may intensify Yale’s review of its own admission policy, which Levin said last week might extend for the rest of the year. Last week, Levin said the deciding factor preventing Yale from eliminating early admissions entirely in 2002 — when the University replaced binding early-decision admissions with a nonbinding early action program — was whether or not other schools would follow suit.
“We essentially have a whole academic year to deliberate on this, plenty of time,” Levin said last week. “The qualifier last time was that it would be difficult to do unless most of the Ivy League and other schools with whom we compete for students were all going about it.”
But in light of Princeton’s move, David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said Yale officials may be forced to act sooner than they otherwise might have.
“I think Yale will face some pressure,” Hawkins said. “I’m not sure how quickly they’ll do something, but there will definitely be a discussion.”
Levin, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel were out of town and unavailable for further comment Monday night. But other top Yale officials said they expect to closely reevaluate the University’s admission policies, with the Corporation weighing in during its meeting later this month. Still, Deputy Provost Charles Long said he does not believe Princeton’s announcement will necessarily sway Yale administrators in one direction or another.
Long said he believes early action has been a successful program at Yale so far, and need not disadvantage qualified applicants if properly administered.
“We may change it, but the fact of the matter is that early action seems pretty advantageous to students,” he said. “You don’t have to fill a class with early admissions if you think it’s causing some kind of damage to the applicants.”
But Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said administrators at her school concluded that a single admission process would attract a more diverse applicant pool to the university.
“We agree [with Harvard administrators] that early admission ‘advantages the advantaged,’” Tilghman said in a press release. “Although we have worked hard in recent years to increase the diversity of our early decision applicants, we have concluded that adopting a single admissions process is necessary to ensure equity for all applicants.”
According to the Princeton press release, applicants to the university’s Class of 2012 will face a single admissions deadline, which has not been set but could possibly be in mid to late December. Harvard has already announced that its new single admissions deadline will be Jan. 1.
Schools with early action or early decision programs generally accept a higher proportion of early applicants. Last year, 17.7 percent of early action applicants and 5.8 percent of regular decision applicants were accepted to Yale. Of the 4,084 early applicants, 724 were admitted, while 1,099 of the 18,976 who applied regular decision were accepted.
Princeton College Dean Nancy Weiss Malkiel declined an interview request Monday night.
The review of Yale’s admissions policies will begin with the Yale Corporation meeting at the end of the month, officials said last week.