Early Applications On Rise At Colleges

Ann McClure's picture

High school seniors hoping for an advance nod from Harvard University have swamped it with an unusually large group of early applications that represent the most economically and ethnically diverse set of students in the school’s history.

Harvard canceled its early action program in 2006 because of worries that privileged applicants were getting an edge and holding back attempts to recruit a more diverse student population, a fear backed up by studies showing that early deadlines tend to draw a whiter, richer applicant pool than conventional winter and spring cutoff dates do.

But the school reinstated the program this year and announced yesterday that it drew 4,245 applicants, an increase from the 4,010 who applied in 2006. Almost 72 percent of this year’s applicants need financial aid, and numbers of African-American, Latino, and Native American students are all up.

Harvard is one of many colleges deluged with early applications. Most elite programs - including Brown, Cornell, and Duke universities - have seen increases. That was true across the board last year, as well. In 2010, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 72 percent of colleges said they saw more applications to early action programs, which let students know earlier whether they have been accepted but do not require a commitment in return.

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