Harvard’s Drop of Early Admissions Fuels National Debate

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Spurred by a desire to make its undergraduate admissions process more fair for disadvantaged students, Harvard University announced last week that it plans to eliminate its early- admission program, which allowed some students to find out whether they were accepted several months before others.

The decision, announced Sept. 12, is also intended to motivate students to continue excelling in their high school courses during senior year, and take some pressure off an increasingly frenzied process, Harvard officials said.

The process of getting into college has become “too complex,” Harvard’s interim president, Derek Bok, said in a statement. “Students from more sophisticated backgrounds often apply early to increase their chances of admission,” he said, “while minority students and students from rural areas, other countries, and high schools with fewer resources miss out.”

Starting next fall, all students applying for the class entering in September 2008 will have a single application deadline of Jan. 1. They will learn by April 1, 2008, whether they have been admitted.

Under Harvard’s form of early admission, known as early action, students who apply by Nov. 1 receive word by Dec. 15 whether they have been admitted, denied, or referred to the general applicant pool. Students who are admitted under the option have until the following May 1, the same date as other applicants, to decide whether to attend the school. That gives students who are slated to receive financial aid a chance to compare packages.

Peer Review

Harvard’s decision could have an impact on its Ivy League peers and on other selective colleges, but it might not reverberate through out all of higher education, said Barmak Nassirian, an associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, in Washington.

“It’s one thing for Harvard to decide it’s not going to deploy this tactic; it’s another for institutions who don’t have Harvard’s brand power to let go of it,” Mr. Nassirian said. He said less prestigious colleges would continue to offer early decision to ensure a sizable—and well-qualified—freshman class.

“They do it because it works—it eliminates a significant amount of uncertainty for the school,” he said.

Still, Harvard is not alone in moving to scrap early admissions. Mr. Nassirian noted that while Harvard’s shift garnered a lot of attention, two other institutions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Delaware in Newark, recently ended their early-decision programs.

Margaret L. Drugovich, the vice president for communication and enrollment at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, said her school was unlikely to drop its early-action or early-decision options anytime soon. She noted that the school’s early decision program gives students a chance to review their financial-aid package before enrolling.

She said the early action program, “gives students a chance to know their options early” without needing to make a commitment.

“I have a feeling this debate is going to go on for some time,” Ms. Drugovich said. “Colleges will sort this out. … I’ve heard it suggested that since Harvard has done it, others will follow. But even if that happens, it will take a long time.”

Vol. 26, Issue 04, Page 16

Published in Print: September 20, 2006, as Harvard’s Drop of Early Admissions Fuels National Debate
Related Stories
Web Resources
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >