High school students who applied to Yale early are worried that their competition might be taking advantage of Yale’s non-binding admissions option.

Given that Yale is the only member of the Harvard-Yale-Princeton trio that still accepts applicants early, and that Yale’s early program is nonbinding, prospective Elis said they are frustrated by the possibility that Yale is not the first choice of fellow applicants. Five of seven early applicants interviewed said Yale was their first choice, and they hope they will not lose a spot to someone who is actually holding out for admission to one of the University’s rivals.

“[Some people think], ‘If I get into Yale, all I have to do is apply to Harvard and Princeton, which is where I really want to go,’” said Sarah Swong, a senior at the Horace Mann School in the Bronx who is interested in English and history, and plays cello through the precollege program at the Manhattan School of Music on weekends.

Yale’s early action option is single choice, meaning that it prohibits students from simultaneously applying early to other schools, but does not bind them to accept if they are offered admission.

The two students who did not identify Yale as their top choice said the University is still near the top of their lists, adding that they will apply to far fewer other schools if accepted. But even those who complained of competition from students who do not plan to attend Yale are working on applications to other schools and keeping their options open. Three of the five applicants who said Yale was their first pick said they would still apply elsewhere if they got in, citing financial reasons and parents’ wishes.

Andrew Griswold, a senior from Wellesley High School in Wellesley, Mass., agreed with Swong. He said he was frustrated by the fact that anyone applying to Yale, Harvard and Princeton, among other top schools, can send their early application to Yale and enjoy the same chance of being admitted as an early applicant who already knows he or she wants to attend Yale. But, he said, the majority of the early applicants he knows actually do want to go to Yale. Griswold is interested in chemistry and chemical engineering, plays the violin, runs track and cross country and is in the student congress at Wellesley High.

Scott Murphy, a senior from Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., is also concerned that some students applying early may not truly want to go to Yale. He said if Yale wants to have an early application option, he does not understand why the University would choose to have an early action program instead of a binding early decision one, which would distinguish students who truly want to go to Yale from the rest. Murphy is a prospective engineering major who is on the Massachusetts Student Advisory Council, a body of 40 democratically elected students that considers educational matters in Massachusetts schools and suggests legislation to the Board of Education to improve the quality of education in the state.

“Early decision makes sense for the school … [because] they can accept you and they know they have you,” said Murphy. “Early action, on the other hand, denies [the admissions office] the chance to get a look at the entire application pool before making … decisions.”

One applicant, a high school senior from Massachusetts who asked to remain anonymous because he had not received permission from his high school to talk to the News, said he thought Yale’s early action option gave the University an advantage over its traditional rivals, Harvard and Princeton. He said students choosing between the three colleges might choose Yale because they can finish the application process by December.

“Harvard and Princeton lose out on extremely qualified students because of this,” he said, adding that for him, Yale is the ultimate goal. “If I hear that I got in on December 15th, I’ll accept my spot on December 16th,” he said.

Jasmine Tatum, a senior at Kent Denver School in Englewood, Colo., said she knows of four students applying early to Yale from her school this year. Three are applying because Yale is their first choice, she said, and one prefers Harvard but has sent an application to Yale because its early option is nonbinding. Tatum wants to be pre-med, and she is the editor in chief of Kent Denver’s school newspaper, a member of the student council and the captain of the junior varsity volleyball team this year.

Harvard and Princeton discontinued their early application programs in 2006.