Analyzing the impact of Early Decision


Caroline Fassett, Investigative News Editor

The first round of undergraduate Early Decision applications are due to the University’s Office of Admissions on Nov. 15. Prospective students must apply through the online Common Application and have the option to apply Early Decision 1 (ED1), Early Decision 2 (ED2), or Regular Decision (RD). The ED2 and RD applications are due on January 15.

Thus far, the Office of Admissions has received roughly 1,300 applications for first-year admissions, an increase of “more than 10 percent compared with this time last year,” Dean of Admissions Robert Springall said. Still, these ED1 applications are being sent to the University “at almost the exact same rate” as the previous fall semester.

“We will know a lot more just after the Nov. 15 ED1 deadline passes. While more students appear to be filing very early, the percentage of our applicants filing within one week of the deadline has gone up every year of the eight I’ve been at [the University]. For the Class of 2020, 32 percent of our ED2 and RD applicants were filed in the last seven days before the January 15 deadline,” Springall said.

Springall noted that those who apply ED reap various benefits that are inaccessible to those who choose to apply RD.

Value of First Choice

Because it is apparent that students who apply ED consider the University their foremost choice of all possible colleges that they can attend, the Office of Admissions agrees that their chances of receiving admission should be deservedly greater.

“We believe that [the fact that the University is a student’s first choice] should have some value when looking at all of the factors that lead to an applicant being admitted,” Springall said.

Kyle Siverts ’18 said that, before applying, he definitively knew that he wanted to attend the University.

“I knew I wanted to come here. It was my first choice after I toured it for the first time; it’s got a great engineering program, [and] it’s a beautiful school. And by applying here ED1, I knew I had a better chance of being accepted,” Siverts said.

Implication of Preparedness

If a student is applying ED, Springall explained that it is implied that these individuals have “done their own research and have a fuller appreciation for what it takes to be admitted here.”

“[The Office] offers Early Decision as an option to students who have done their homework and concluded that [the University] is their clear first choice … As a result, nearly every ED applicant fits our class profile very well; they are academically competitive,” Springall said.

Ty Chung ’17 explained that his affiliation with the Posse Foundation encouraged him to apply to the University ED. The University has partnered with the Posse Foundation since 2005, when the first group of ten scholars enrolled from Washington D.C.; since then, Posses from Boston and Los Angeles have attended the University.

This program has identified, recruited, and trained thousands of public high school students with overt academic and leadership potential to become Posse Scholars. To be considered for this scholarship, Posse finalists must apply ED to the affiliated Universities.

“I was given tuition money through the school after being accepted into the program,” Chung said.

In addition to selecting students to admit for the next incoming class, Admissions Officers also lead the undergraduate recruitment effort and orchestrate activities designed to encourage admitted students to choose the University. Janiel Slowly ’19 said that she was not originally interested in attending the University. But after her track coach accompanied her to speak with the University’s Division I track coaches, she decided to apply ED1 to the University and ED2 to Princeton University.

“I was waitlisted at Princeton, but I received admission here, and they gave me money. So here I am,” Slowly said.

Increased Likelihood

Springall noted that ED1 students are competing for admission against other ED1 students as well as what the Office of Admissions believes will be the academic makeup of the ED2 and RD applicants. Because the application pool is not complete until Jan. 15, the Office of Admissions cannot perfectly foresee the content of these RD and ED2 applications, and is thus required to make some assumptions about them. Springall said that these presumptions “tend to be conservative,” favoring the ED applicants.

“The applicant receives the benefit of an early answer and competing with the other ED applicants, and not directly with the entire applicant pool … when we received nearly 11,000 applications for the Class of 2019, our assumptions definitely tipped in favor of the early applicants,” Springall said.

Sam Havens ’20 said that he initially applied ED1 to a different school. Because the University was his second choice, he didn’t hesitate to send in an ED2 application after being denied from his first.

“After I was rejected, I just wanted to get the application process over with. [The University] was my second choice, and I got in. I knew I would fit in here, because a ton of kids from my town go here and love it,” Havens said.

The distribution between ED1, ED2, and RD applications has remained very consistent over the last several years. And while ED1 applications are the only form of application due in the immediate future, so far the majority of applications received by the Office of Admissions fall under the RD category.

“[This] is typical. High school seniors are increasingly busy, and many file their applications way ahead of the deadline and not put it off until December or early January,” Springall said.

Camille Sommerfield ’20 and Emma Griesser ’18 both applied RD to the University.

“I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go. I wanted to be admitted to schools first, and then weigh my options. I wasn’t ready to commit right away,” Sommerfield said.

“My situation is really weird. I applied here Regular Decision and got in off the waitlist, but retrospectively I believe I should’ve applied here Early Decision. I applied ED to another school, and didn’t get in; but all along this school was so clearly the better fit for me,” Griesser said.

The University does not offer an Early Action option to applicants, wherein individuals can express their particular interest in a potential school by sending in their non-binding application by November rather than by the latest December deadline. Springall explained that the absence of this opportunity is deliberate, for persons who send ED applications to the University are “a smaller, more focused group” than would be seen if Early Action were offered.

“Since Early Decision is a binding commitment, it will only appeal to students for whom the University, or any other ED school, is a clear first choice … [additionally,] several colleges that offer Early Action have told me that they may not be able to handle the volume of early applications in the future. There are simply too many applications to read in too short a period of time. Right now, I don’t see a better system for [the University], but we are always trying to find ways to improve our processes,” Springall said.

Springall said that the Office “has a multi-pronged effort” to diversify each class year, including instituting recruitment events and partnering with diverse groups on campus.

“Our effort aligns with the Diversity Plan created and advanced by the President’s Diversity Council…[s]ome of our efforts are in the form of partnerships, such as our relationships with the Posse Foundation and the five colleges in the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program,” he explained.

He added that, when reviewing applications, the first question the Office of Admissions always poses is “Can this student be academically successful here?” It follows that the admissions officers find the greatest value in applicants’ high school records, meticulously examining the courses they took and the grades they earned.

“Everything else [SAT/ACT scores, the common application essay, etc.] of course, also is weighed in the review process, including the student’s context and characteristics that indicate they may make unique contributions to the campus community,” Springall said.

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