University reinstates early admission program
The University will reinstate its early admission program for applicants to the Class of 2016 after a four-year hiatus, it announced Thursday morning. The program will offer applicants a single-choice early action option — allowing accepted students to respond to the offer of admission in the spring — instead of a binding early decision option, which the University offered from 1996 to 2006.
“We have carefully reviewed our single admission program every year, and we have been very pleased with how it has worked,” President Shirley Tilghman said in a University press release. “But in eliminating our early program four years ago, we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same, and they haven’t.”
She also said that the reinstatement of an early admission program would once again “provide opportunities for early application for students who know that Princeton is their first choice.”
The University initially abandoned its early admission program in 2006, issuing a press release about the decision within a week of Harvard’s doing so. The University’s announcement yesterday came within two hours of Harvard’s decision to reinstate its single-choice early action program.
Stephen Oxman ’67, chairman of the executive committee of Princeton’s Board of Trustees, said the executive committee of the board met last Thursday at a specially convened meeting and discussed the possibility of returning to a two-stage admission process.
“We learned through the press that Harvard was seriously looking at its own program and might indeed decide to change its program,” Oxman said. “In view of that possibility, [University President Shirley Tilghman] recommended as a contingency matter that should Harvard make that decision, Princeton would also reinstate an early program. The executive committee was very supportive of the President’s recommendation.”
Tilghman said in an interview that the decision has been an “ongoing process” and that University administrators have reevaluated the decision to eliminate an early admission program every summer. She added that they had begun to hear last fall that Harvard was looking into reinstating an early admissions program mostly through The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student-run newspaper.
She emphasized that the University’s announcement this morning was not entirely contingent on Harvard’s. Even if Harvard had decided to continue with a single admissions process, the University may have instituted an early admissions program starting in the fall, she explained.
Tilghman said she also discussed the matter with the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees in January. According to the release, the choice to reinstate Princeton’s early admission program was made by Tilghman, Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye and Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel after being discussed with the executive committee of the Board of Trustees.
Despite the implications for future applicants, Tilghman noted that the University’s decision would “have very little impact” on higher education in the United States.
“I think what we were hoping in 2006 was that the decision to go to a single admissions system would have an impact,” she said. “When [other schools did not follow suit], which I think was disappointing to both Harvard and Princeton, some of the goals we were trying to achieve were not met.”
The University of Virginia also abandoned its early admission program shortly after Harvard and Princeton did but reversed its policy last year.
The University of Virginia’s Dean of Admissions Greg Roberts said in an e-mail that he “[did not] have any comment on Harvard and Princeton’s decision to reinstate [early action].”
“Their decision does not directly impact us, although I am pleased that both Harvard and Princeton are eager to continue traveling with UVA next fall to recruit talented high school students,” Roberts explained. “All three institutions share a commitment to affordability and access, and now we all allow high school students to apply early through an early action plan.”
Though the University has reversed its 2006 abandonment of an early admission policy, Rapelye said that the University has benefited from eliminating the program in several ways over the past few years.
The Class of 2014 includes more students from minority backgrounds than any other class in the University’s history. Though the percentage of minority students has remained steady in recent years, the University’s success in maintaining this type of diversity while expanding is significant, Rapelye said.
The number of applications to the University reached a historic high of over 27,000 this year, up from 19,000 in 2006. The applicants represented 8,658 high schools, up from 6,881 four years ago.
Rapelye also noted that, though the University is reinstating an early admission program, the new early action process will allow the University to sustain these gains more easily than would a return to the early decision program.
She noted that among the University’s peer schools, students accepted through early admission programs tend to include a lower percentage of students receiving financial aid than those admitted through regular decision.
“That is exactly one of the reasons that we did not go back to early decision,” Rapelye said. “It is my sincere hope that students who need financial aid will be comfortable applying early action. This gives them some freedom to make other decisions if they need to do so.”
Rapelye and Tilghman said they hoped the University would continue to maintain the gains from recent years and perhaps improve upon them.
“I think there’s a lot of confidence among the staff at the admission office — and I have to take that confidence pretty seriously — that we are going to be able to sustain the gains that we’ve seen,” Tilghman said. “I’m cautiously ... optimistic that we will be able to sustain the gains.”