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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.