There is a lot happening on the college admissions scene. A recap:
- Princeton, following Harvard’s lead, has dropped its Early Action program starting in 2008. It claims that it too is motivated by a desire to reduce pressures on college applicants and increase access to lower income applicants.
- Not joining the Dump Early Action Parade, Jay Matthews of The Washington Post. has written "Six Reasons to Keep Early Action." Amidst a lot of virtual back-slapping among admissions folks, this thoughtful article presents compelling reasons for keeping the baby and throwing out the bath water.
- CNN has published "Taking Aim at Admissions Anxiety" a profile of Marilee Jones, Dean of Admissions at MIT. Ms. Jones is an outspoken advocate of "lowering the flame" underneath the pressure cooker that is college admissions, or at least admissions to elite colleges such as MIT.
I have read Ms Jones’ articles in the past, as well as those of others attempting to reduce the frenzy and insanity surrounding admissions at elite colleges. I endorse the goal, but I fear that ending all early admissions programs will have, as Jay Matthews points out, "unintended consequences."
The original motivation behind early admissions was to give students who know which school is their top choice first crack at that program. The schools would know who is most interested in them and the students would have a better shot at admission. That makes sense to me.
Has it been abused to improve rankings? Has it been distorted by early decision programs, which disadvantage those who need financial aid? Yes to both. But I would advocate retaining early action and ending early decision, which was binding. I also encourage schools to watch the rankings less and focus on educational goals and the betterment of their students. Rankings will follow. Finally, to address the legitimate concerns that early admissions programs have been detrimental to the disadvantaged, who simply don’t know the "game," I recommend educating applicants from lower income schools about the advantages of early action as opposed to discarding it for all students.
Doing away with both programs entirely will increase anxiety, as Jay Matthews argues. No one will know where they are going until spring. There will be more frantic shuffling of acceptances, deposits, and waitlists in late spring and summer. And a lot more anxiety and stress.
I can’t settle the early admissions debate, which rages as I type, but I can suggest a source of advice that may reduce the strife and anxiety in your family if you or your child is applying to college. Check out Don’t Let Writing The College Application Essay Drive You And Your Family Crazy. It won’t end the early admissions controversy, but it might reduce the fighting in your home.