(Source: harvard university)
Beginning next year, applicants to Harvard will no longer have the option of applying early. Such policies have come under attack in recent years from opponents who claim early decision programs put undue stress on students and disadvantage those from the lower socio-economic rungs of society. Harvard offered an early action program, a non-binding option that allowed students to go elsewhere even if admitted. Many elite schools, though, prohibit students from considering other choices when applying early. Critics charge that these varying options confuse families and, in some cases, prevent them from maximizing financial aid packages.
What are the implications for early decision programs in toto? Harvard's influence might lead others to abandon their programs for egalitarian purposes. More importantly, the other elites will no longer have to fear losing candidates to Harvard by eliminating their programs. Harvard already has enough of an advantage in the admissions game; now that it has dropped early action, Ivy brethren can follow suit and not lose even more ground.
So far, none of the other Ivies have responded in kind. Time will tell.
Here's how the New York Times reported the story:
Harvard University, breaking with a major trend in college admissions, says it will eliminate its early admissions program next year, with university officials arguing that such programs put low-income and minority applicants at a distinct disadvantage in the competition to get into selective universities.
Harvard will be the first of the nation's prestigious universities to do away completely with early admissions, in which high school seniors try to bolster their chances at competitive schools by applying in the fall and learning whether they have been admitted in December, months before other students.
Some universities now admit as much as half of their freshman class this way, and many, though not Harvard, require an ironclad commitment from students that they will attend in return for the early acceptance.
Harvard's decision – to be announced today – is likely to put pressure on other colleges, which acknowledge the same concerns but have been reluctant to take any step that could put them at a disadvantage in the heated competition for the top students.
"We think this will produce a fairer process, because the existing process has been shown to advantage those who are already advantaged,'' Derek Bok, the interim president of Harvard, said yesterday in an interview.
Mr. Bok said students who were more affluent and sophisticated were the ones most likely to apply for early admission. More than a third of Harvard's students are accepted through early admission. In addition, he said many early admissions programs require students to lock in without being able to compare financial aid offerings from various colleges.
Mr. Bok also spoke about reducing the frenzy surrounding admissions. "I think it will improve the climate in high schools," he said, "so that students don't start getting preoccupied in their junior year about which college to go to.''
Many admissions deans and high school guidance counselors greeted Harvard's decision – which is to go into effect for applicants in the fall of 2007 – with astonishment and delight.
You can read the rest here.