For most high school seniors, the month of March marks an anxious finale to their college application process. But James Madison High School senior Katharine Filipovic hopes to fast-track the waiting game.
With less than two weeks until Penn’s early decision deadline, Filipovic is putting the final touches on her dream school application. She is among the increasing number of high school seniors taking advantage of early admissions programs. Since Penn instituted its own Early Decision Program four decades ago, it has seen a consistent rise in early applicants. Last year marked an all-time high, with 5,390 students applying to Penn early decision.
Filipovic knew that Penn was the place for her the moment she stepped on Locust Walk. “I have visited other schools like UMichigan and NYU, but it’s just not the same,” she said.
For some early decision applicants, Penn became their top choice after they participated in summer programs on campus.
Great Neck South High School senior Matthew Lee always knew he wanted to go to business school. But doing the four-week Leadership in the Business World summer program at the Wharton School made Penn his top choice.
“I really got a feel for the atmosphere on campus, and meeting different professors and students made me want to apply to Wharton early,” Lee said.
Lee is among a growing number of high schoolers taking advantage of pre-college summer camps on Penn’s campus. These programs have exploded in recent years, letting students explore a subject and try out university life.
Now, Lee knows more about Penn’s campus than the average entering freshman. He said that this past summer, he lived in the Quadrangle, took classes in Huntsman Hall and ate at 1920 Commons and Houston Market.
William Penn Charter School senior Andy Nguyen and Pascack Valley High School senior Zoe Ziegler also decided to apply early decision because of Penn summer programs. Nguyen took a Coursera course on campus the summer after his sophomore year of high school, while Ziegler participated in the Management and Technology Summer Institute last summer.
But not all applicants get the chance to visit Penn’s campus. 15 percent of students accepted to Penn last year were international, and many of them may only get to see Locust Walk on Google images before they apply.
Havergal College senior Nicole Shum, a prospective student from Canada, has not visited Penn, but she decided to apply early decision to Wharton after talking to alumni of her Toronto high school.
“I’ve tried my best to talk to different people in different concentrations, and I’m following the Humans of UPenn Facebook page,” Shum said.
But for Penn applicants, applying early decision isn’t just a chance to speed up the college application process. Some also see it as a way to increase their chances of acceptance. For the Class of 2019, the early decision acceptance rate was 23.9 percent, while the regular decision acceptance rate was 7.9 percent. Last admissions cycle, of the Class of 2019 was filled during the early decision round.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda has said that ultimately, admittance depends on the quality of the candidate rather than whether one applies early decision.
“If early decision could look like what we want the class to look like in regular decision, I’ll admit the whole class early decision,” Furda told The Daily Pennsylvanian in February.
But Filipovic sees this difference as significant. “Statistically, it seems to be easier to get in early decision,” she said. “And I’m really trying to do everything I can to get into Penn because it’s my dream school.”
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