Top of the Class, Bottom of the List

harvard seal

Earlier this week, Harvard University announced that it was deep-sixing it’s early admissions program. Interim President Derek Bok states “We hope that doing away with early admission will improve the process and make it simpler and fairer.” He goes on to say that the current system for early admissions “advantages the advantage“. It’s been a long-known fact that students from more well-to-do families and affluent high schools tend to apply for early admission to increase their chances of acceptance. Lower income students, people from rural areas and high schools with fewer resources tend to get left behind in the admissions process with a majority of slots going to those who sought early admissions.

This unprecedented move by Harvard seeks to put all applicants on a level playing field. A reporter for ABC News pointed out that a majority of students seeking early admission come from alumni and/or donors to the university. In fact, a majority of Ivy League students come from alumni and/or donor families. It is an obvious point that most of these families are extremely well-to-do and have the money to better prepare their student than an average American family with children in public schools.

The administration at Harvard is hoping that this move will put pressure on other large universities to do the same thing, further leveling the playing field. Says one college president, “Harvard’s move is ‘interesting’. I’d like to see how this turns out before implementing the same measures in this school”.

While Harvard is recognized worldwide as a leader in education, many US schools are balking at the notion of doing away with their early admissions programs. Many schools rely on early admissions to lock down students willing to pay full tuition (many of them out of state students paying the extra out-of-state fees).

It will be interesting to see how this move by Harvard trickles down through the ranks of universities. I’ve always been for putting everyone on an equal playing field and letting everyone have a fair shot.



~ by Deuce on September 16, 2006.

7 Responses to “Top of the Class, Bottom of the List”

  1. Yeah, I just read where Princeton did. It’s anxiety of those who apply early, but those who choose to wait until later. While a student is waiting on test scores to come back or something like that, their top 3 choices of schools are busy filling up with early action and early decision applicants.

  2. Princeton just did it too, saying that it will “relieve anxiety.” I don’t get it. Applying early action did relieve a lot of my anxiety!

  3. i know who attended such schools, not one was from a legacy family.

  4. a couple things:

    1) don’t overestimate the old-boy-ness of ivy leagues. yes there is that aspect to all of them; but of all the people i know who attended such schools, not one was from a legacy family.

    2) early decision and early action are separate things. early action isn’t binding; accepted students have until may to decide, just like everyone else. so students could know about all their aid before they commit.

  5. I don’t think there is any chance that Harvard will stop catering first and foremost to the children of the wealthy and powerful of this country. (and some of the wealthy and powerful of other countries as well)

    Than being said, any modifications to admissions to help give Black or poorer white students a leg up, they would be welcome. And early admissions only hurt them. I say, good riddance. And I hope other schools feel pressured to follow suit.

    You know, every time we legislate against one form of discrimination, this country and its public and private institutions find another way to put that discrimination back in place. Gotta stay alert to it.

  6. I don’t think early action and early admission puts people at a disadvantage due soley to a lack of awareness. I think it has more to do with the socioeconomic status of the student and their family. I knew about early admission and early action when I applied, but I had no where near the money to attend any of those schools to begin with. Committing to them early in my seinor year didn’t make any sense; as it turns out, I recieved a full scholarship from the university here and the rest is history.

    The point is early action works for those who have the money already set aside to pay for college early in seinor year, whether it be through private funds or scholarships. It also works for those who are prepared academiclly to enter a 4 year university right out of high school.

    As for the donor and alumni families, that’s just the system being the system. Having a stated policy is one thing; abiding by it when there’s no one around to enforce it is completely another.

  7. the early action and early decision options are a fairly recent trend and its interesting that the move seems to be back away from then already. perhaps instead of nixing the application option, they should try to increase awareness of it.

    when i applied to college, i applied early action. this allowed me to get an admissions decision sooner and i could’ve reapplied during the normal admissions process (perhaps after revamping my application) if i had not gotten in the first time around.

    with this in mind, why doesn’t harvard just (1) raise awareness of the process in the communities which it says don’t apply early and (2) have a stated policy of not going easy on donors and alumni families in the first go around?

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