Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale used to be like those three annoying kids in elementary school. When one did something, the other two would too, and they would make a hullabaloo in the process. It seems that these three schools — educators of eight dead presidents — will soon do away with early admissions, especially since Harvard and Princeton have already done so. The real value of early admissions for me was that it put me into an admissions mindset in September and October, instead of in November and December. Such a mindset was crucial to remaining sane after writing the umpteenth essay about the quote (and person, event, teacher, book and ice cream flavor) that affected my life forever.
But as the theory goes, I should have been somehow disadvantaged by the process. After all, I attended an underfunded urban public magnet school (Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science) with only one college counselor, who worked about 15 hours per week. A full-time college counselor with an equivalent workload would have been responsible for over 150 students, which is about 10 times as many as elite private schools. But my school was anything but disadvantaged when it came to college admissions — every single year, we send students to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and other colleges with pre-eminent science programs, as well as a smattering to elite liberal arts colleges like Yale. And all of this is accomplished by a school housed in an old factory building with only about 20-30 percent enrollment by non-immigrant white students. It was the high level of public education in Massachusetts, the initiative by the state legislature to fund a specialized math/science magnet school and the drive of the students in my classes — almost every one of whom worked after school — that led to our success, not the date we applied.
Critics of early admissions, however, are correct when they assert that there are problems with the process. Acceptance rates for early applicants are, at least in the Ivy League, many times higher than for regular applicants. Last year, Harvard had 21.3 percent acceptance rate for its early pool of applicants, compared to 9.3 percent for all applicants. For Princeton, it was even starker — they let in over a quarter (26.8 percent) of those who applied early. Yale, which had the lowest acceptance rate of all schools in the Ivy League at 8.6 percent, accepted 17.7 percent early. But it does not need to be that way. MIT, which is hardly known for being conventional, had a lower early acceptance rate (13.7 percent) than its total acceptance rate (14.3 percent). It is a problem that most elite colleges accept one in four who apply in November and one in 20 who apply in December, but when a car breaks, the entire car isn’t scrapped — only the broken part is replaced.
This change was proposed in the name of disadvantaged students, of which there are far, far too few here at Yale. It is sad that one meets 10 students from Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Old Campus before meeting anyone from Harlem. But fixing this will take more than a change in the timing of admission decisions. These students are not disadvantaged because they do not have time — we all have 24 hours in a day (although taking care of siblings and working second jobs certainly doesn’t help). It is a question of money, and it can be most easily resurrected with money, of which Yale isn’t exactly short. Instead of paying lip service to accepting more qualified students from West Virginia over those from Westchester by changing the admissions schedule, why doesn’t Yale put its money where its mouth is?
Yale, Harvard and Princeton, along with a few other colleges, could bump up financial aid to cover all need with grants instead of loans and still be financially solvent. This is because college educations do not cost $40,000 per year, or even half of that. In fact, it has been calculated that the average college education in the United States costs about $14,000. Yale, presumably, costs a bit more because gargoyles do not work for cheap. Nonetheless, if Yale wanted to help the disadvantaged, why make them pay top dollar for the top education? The poorest of students already receive full financial aid, but students from the lower-middle class get stuck with a big bill, especially in comparison to public colleges. These students, often from subpar public schools, are exactly whom the end of early admissions is designed to help. The decision-makers at Yale must remember that even though Harvard and Princeton made ending early admission sound good on paper, only another type of paper will help disadvantaged students — the type with dead presidents on the front.
Eric Purington is a sophomore in Morse College.