Friday, November 18, 2011

Virginia received nearly 11,500 applications for the class of 2016

WHEN THE University eliminated its early decision option in 2007, there were undoubtedly some qualified high school applicants who were forced to wait until the spring to receive their admission decisions and so chose to go elsewhere. Thus, the University’s decision in November 2010 to offer applicants the option of early action attracted quite a bit of attention among admission officers and counselors. It has attracted the attention of high school students, as well. The University received nearly 11,500 applications from high school seniors this fall.
An advantage to the University’s new admission process is that it takes some of the pressure off these high school seniors and their families since they no longer have to make a binding commitment to the University. Moreover, providing an additional option allowed the University to recapture applications from some of the students who would have applied early action elsewhere.
Greg Roberts, the University’s dean of admission, said to UVa Today, “Economically disadvantaged students were far less likely to apply under the binding early-decision plan, since they were unable to compare multiple financial aid packages from other colleges and universities.” Assuming this change from early decision to early action brings flexibility to students in allowing them to compare financial aid packages, the early admission process will draw applicants from more diverse economic backgrounds.
Yet I am not certain that the gains in diversity will outweigh some of the unmentioned drawbacks. According to UVa Today, Roberts indicated in a memo to the Board of Visitors that “self-identified minority students make up 23.3 percent of the early-action pool, compared to 19.3 percent of the 2007 early-decision pool and 29.4 percent of the regular-decision applicant pool in 2011.” These numbers indicate that although the early action pool included a larger proportion of minority students than did the early decision pool, it is still much less diverse than the group that applies in the spring.
Roberts, in the UVa Today article, also said that “having a pool of students who are offered admission by late January will give the University a chance to develop stronger relationships with the admitted students and provide more targeted information to the students during the winter months.” When a university has made a decision to accept an applicant, it is obvious that this university wants the student to accept admission and will make efforts to call, email or send information to the student.
But this does not always work to a school’s advantage. For some of the early-action colleges to which I was accepted, I viewed their attempts to make contact with me as rather annoying. Once accepted, I did not have any interest in participating in online chat groups with overly-giddy peers, nor did I think administrators’ efforts to call me and gauge my interest in their schools were helpful or productive.
In fact, when colleges tried so often to make contact with me it had a negative effect on my willingness to attend, because I knew they wanted me. Akin to someone fending off a glut of romantic suitors, my desperation to apply to better schools while keeping the early acceptances as backups was only exacerbated.
In this way, early non-binding acceptance may encourage some high-quality students to subconsciously regard their acceptance to the University as a safety net. They may, in turn, dedicate more time to applying to more prestigious schools in the spring. Instead of focusing on the University closer to when decisions are made in the spring, admitted early action students may lose sight of its selectivity because they have already been accepted.
For the seniors who are content with their acceptance to the University, early acceptance may take pressure off of their application process, but it can also contribute to senioritis. With many college-level classes building on knowledge from senior classes in high school, it should be obvious that fewer admitted seniors performing at their highest potential during their final semester of high school will negatively affect academics at the University’s first-year level.
Because of the competitive nature of the college admission process, more colleges will continue to adopt early action admission. This will push the real deadline for college applications back to the fall instead of January and reduce the incentives for students to achieve during their spring semester, ultimately attracting a lower quality first-year class.

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