Two weeks ago, they invaded Commons. Clad in bright red lanyards and clinging to their parents — they’d probably cling a lot tighter if they knew about the latest wave of dining hall health reports; want some pink slime with that ice cream? — Penn’s latest crop of accepted early decision students bombarded campus for Connected Quaker Days.
They were small. They were scared. They wanted to know what the hell “the Quad thing” was. More importantly, they were the largest early decision class in Penn’s history.
According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, 54.9 percent of the Class of 2019 has been filled with ED students. That’s up from a 53.7 percent ED fill rate for my freshman class. The number of early decision students accepted has increased dramatically over the years, with just 45 percent of the Class of 2008 comprised of ED. The class of 2020 will likely feature a hefty amount of ED students.
And well it should.
Penn should prioritize accepting students who are genuinely excited about our school. Early decision students know that Penn appeals to them, and they have already crafted a vision of their lives here. They’ll work to generate a Penn-specific culture. A school as huge as Penn shouldn’t have a concrete vision of itself, but having such a large cluster of a student body bursting with Penn love enhances our environment. Admissions should try to find the most qualified and interested students, but we should also reward those who can truly see themselves here.
I’ve written before about Penn’s inferiority complex. We follow the rankings. We watch ourselves. It kills us that Penn doesn’t get instant name recognition — personally, I think it’s nice that we have the ego take-down when my dentist asks me how I’m enjoying State College — but it grates on all of us after a while. During NSO, I surrounded myself with a cluster of kids who knew each other from ED days. There was a marked difference between those of us who have wanted to go to Penn since our early years of high school — maybe earlier — and those who were bitter about not getting into Stanford. As someone who’s loved Penn since my junior year of high school, I have a hard time stomaching groans about how we’re “not HYP” or how we’ll never catch up in the race to drop admissions percentages like they’re hot. Too many Penn students take our university for granted. We need to appreciate Penn in its own right — an easy first step is to increase the number of students who already do that.
Of course, I’m biased. I was lucky to live near enough to Penn to tour it. I stepped onto Locust, and I knew it was home. Not everyone can feel that instant connection — and more importantly, not enough high school students have access to it. The University should work on promoting its Early Decision policies to lower-income communities. Penn should work with organizations like QuestBridge, which works with high-achieving, low-income students, and others that help underserved groups through the college admissions process. Moreover, there’s a common misperception that accepted ED students have to attend Penn even if their financial aid awards are not satisfactory. That’s just not true. I know of someone who was accepted to Penn ED, but didn’t receive adequate financial aid and decided to attend another school. While I wouldn’t call that a success story, it’s proof that Penn keeps its word.
Many of my friends were Regular Decision, and they absolutely love Penn. Their Quaker pride isn’t any less valid or real than that of ED students. But those who already feel the pull towards Locust Walk should be rewarded. There’s a benefit to surrounding ourselves with those who are proud to be at Penn — not wary that they didn’t get into whatever their other first choice Ivy was. Let’s embrace those who embrace Penn.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.