Survey discovers early-decision applications becoming more popular

by Cati Vanden Breul

The earlier students apply to college and the more certain they are about their choice, the better, suggests a survey released last month by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

At colleges with competitive admissions, early-decision applications are becoming more popular, according to the survey, with the number of early applications increasing by 37.3 percent in 2004.

Many early-decision programs give priority to students who promise to attend an institution if accepted over those who do not make a commitment.

But even though the University’s admissions process is becoming more competitive and applications are up 10 percent from this time last year, the school does not have an early-decision program like that of most selective schools, said Wayne Sigler, the Office of Admissions director.

“There has been no serious discussion to move to that type of approach,” Sigler said. “I think early-decision (programs) may be more appropriate for institutions that are ‘hypercompetitive’ and not really relevant to public universities.”

Sigler said the term “hypercompetitive” is often used to refer to schools that admit less than 50 percent of their applicants.

The University usually offers admission to approximately 70 percent of its applicants, although not always to their first-choice college, he said.

“Providing reasonable access is something the University takes very seriously,” Sigler said.

But that is becoming tougher as the number of applicants increases. Applications have increased 38 percent in three years, with 5,505 more students applying this year than in 2002, Sigler said.

The University does what it can to accommodate for the continuing increase, Sigler said. From 1992 to 2004, the school increased the first-year class size by 71 percent, an increase of 2,324 students, he said.

But admitting too many students could lead to a decrease in quality, because resources would be stretched, Sigler said.

The closest the University comes to an early-decision program is the Dec. 15 priority deadline.

“In our opinion, it gives students the best of both worlds. They can apply early, but they still have until May 1 to decide,” Sigler said.

Annie Borton, a high school senior who might come to the University next year, said that she was unsure where she wanted to go when she applied to the University.

“I wouldn’t have applied early-decision if they’d had it,” Borton said, but she did apply by the Dec. 15 deadline to be safe.

Yet she said she can see why colleges like early-decision programs.

“That way, they know the space they are offering is guaranteed to come, and they don’t have to worry about waiting around to hear from as many kids,” Borton said. “Also, there are fewer people who have to be put on a waiting list, so it’s better for applicants too.”

But University first-year student Efstathios Chouliaris said some strong students might get left behind when those who apply early are given higher consideration.

“We should not give priority to students who do their applications early, because it might overlook some students who were late in their applications who are academically sound and have great potential,” Chouliaris said.

But Sigler said 90 percent of prospective students get their applications in by the priority deadline and every application is read at least twice.