Early admission to top colleges, once the almost exclusive preserve of the East Coast elite, is now being pursued by a much broader and more diverse group of students, including foreigners and minorities.
The democratization of the process — and the overall explosion in applicants — made the early-admissions game much tougher this year for the group that has long dominated it: students in prep schools in New York and beyond where the vast majority of seniors apply to their top choices in November in hopes of avoiding the springtime scrum.
“Their odds have definitely decreased,” said Christoph Guttentag, dean of admissions at Duke University. “You can sort of envision the appeal of early decision radiating outward, from the most affluent to the middle class, and westward from the East Coast and then across the Pacific.”
Duke, for example, received 400 early applications this year from California or overseas; in 2005, it was fewer than 100. Haverford College, outside Philadelphia, saw early applications from abroad double this year from last. And at the University of Chicago, there were double-digit rises in the percentage of early applications from black and Hispanic students.