Many schools have been aggressively marketing their school to a wider variety and number of students more than ever before. According to the College Board, they sell 45 million more names a year to colleges now than they did in the early 1990’s. This change in admissions trend has more colleges offering Early Action or Early Decision applications to students, which essentially allow students to apply early and get an admission decision from the college well before the usual spring notification date. These terms vary by schools, but the official distinction and conditions are offered on College Board.
These trends have consequently created many changes for the applicants and schools. Students are applying to college earlier and earlier in hopes of getting accepted, along with many applying by Early Action or Early Decision deadlines. EA/ED applications give students a feeling of security, along with alleviating much of the anxiety that comes along with the long wait for a response. However, students are usually inclined to believe that if they apply earlier then they will be more likely to get accepted into the college, which is not necessarily true in all cases. This also may put pressure onto the students to make a decision before they have a chance to compare school options, so the EA/ED application may be a better option for students who know exactly what school that they want to go to.
Not only have students been applying earlier, but there has been an increase in the amount of applications to many schools. Colleges are continuing to switch over to the common application, which makes it easier for students to fill out many applications online quickly. For example, Brown University switched to the common application in ‘07-‘08 and has had a 50% increase in applications over the last three years. A school is able to look more impressive and prestigious if they have a lower acceptance rate, so what school wouldn’t want to receive more applications? Looking at specifically a school’s admissions team and applicants, an increase in applications does have a downside for them. The admissions team will have to put in a lot more work to go through the extra applications in a timely manner, which could increase student wait times for responses and give the admissions team a harder time to predict yield and commitment. The schools may be happy about the increase but I am not so sure about the admissions team or prospective college applicants.
For percent of change in early admissions received and accepted, view NY Times article and chart for this current admissions season.