The New World of Early Admissions

Since three universities dropped their early admissions programs, students have applied early elsewhere

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In the first year since three very selective universities dropped their early admissions programs, rival schools have seen a bump—if not an outright surge—in the number of early applications they have received.

With the November deadline for early applications past, schools are now evaluating their numbers. The University of Chicago saw one of the largest jumps, at 45 percent, while Yale's applicant pool grew 36 percent and Georgetown's 30 percent. All three schools have nonbinding early action programs. More than a dozen other elite schools, some with binding agreements, also saw increases.

The surge follows Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Virginia's abandonment last fall of their early admissions programs. The move, they say, is for the benefit of low-income applicants, who need to compare financial aid packages and typically start their college search later. Students who apply early are more likely to be admitted than those in the regular application process. The downside for schools that have seen a rise in early applicants—and especially ones with nonbinding early admissions options: The ultimate composition of their freshman class will be tougher for them to predict.