While Penn’s number of early decision applications rose by over 5.9 percent from last year, application trends around the Ivy League and elsewhere have varied substantially.
Brown and Columbia Universities both saw increases of about one percent from last year, and applications to Dartmouth College’s early decision program fell by 12.5 percent. Since early applicants to these schools, like Penn, commit to attending if they are admitted, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said that it makes sense that they generally receive fewer applications than early action programs.
“There are only so many students who are going to say, ‘This is clearly my first choice — I’m applying early to commit to the place,’” Furda said.
On the non-binding early action side, Yale University saw applications rise by 4.4 percent, and Princeton University’s applications rose by over 10 percent, one year after reinstating its early program in 2011.
Most schools extended their application deadlines because of weather issues posed by Hurricane Sandy, but Princeton’s number may continue to increase because of “the flexibility in considering applicants who were affected by Hurricane Sandy,” Princeton spokesperson Martin Mbugua said in an email.
Harvard and Cornell universities have not yet released their early applicant numbers.
Outside the Ivy League, applications to Duke University’s early decision program declined by 2.6 percent, and the University of Chicago broke its early action application record for the fourth straight year, topping 10,000 applicants for an increase of 18.6 percent.
1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting Michael Goran sees the general trend of higher early applications as reflective of students’ desire to get a decision in December, rather than in March or April.
“There are more students that are aware of it, more students that are savvy about it,” Goran said of applying early. “I really don’t think it’s so much a question of programs driving early applications as students wanting to know … the school that they’re potentially into.”
Penn received a record-breaking 4,795 applications for early decision this year, among the most of any early decision program in the country. Furda believes that Penn is nearing the top of what he sees as the University’s range for early applications.
However, Goran and Bev Taylor, founder of The Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, said that they believe applications to most schools will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
“We all figured that it was leveling off, and colleges are going to get less applications,” Taylor said. “What happened is kids just started applying to more schools than they ever did … because the admit rates keep going down, so they feel like they have to because of the odds.”
More specifically, Taylor sees Penn’s higher admit rate in the early round as a driving force for the University’s increasing early applications.
“It’s pretty obvious to people in the business that with Penn it’s so difficult to get in regular decision, that you have to be so special to get in,” Taylor said. “With early decision it’s just a lot easier. This is nothing new for Penn.… Colleges are not going [to] say it’s easier to get into our school early than regular … but that’s not the whole story. The whole story is that colleges love to be loved.”