Harvard University announced yesterday that it will eliminate its early admission program next fall, replacing it with a single Jan. 1 application deadline for the Class of 2012.

Harvard interim President Derek Bok said in a statement that the change will make the admissions process simpler and decrease bias favoring students from affluent backgrounds.

Bok justified the decision by saying that many disadvantaged students do not apply to college early because doing so prevents them from comparing financial-aid packages from multiple colleges.

Although Harvard is often viewed as a trendsetter in the world of higher education, it does not seem that other Ivy League schools will immediately follow its lead.

"We have no plans at the moment for reconsidering our early decision policy," President Amy Gutmann said.

Unlike Harvard, which has a non-binding early action policy, Penn's early decision program requires accepted students to matriculate.

Yale University President Richard Levin questioned Harvard's contention that dropping early admission will level the playing field. He said in a statement that since students from lower-income families are "underrepresented in the Ivy League applicant pool," Ivy schools should continue what they have been doing in recent years - strengthening financial-aid packages.

Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said that Princeton has considered creating a single application deadline in the past, but has decided not to.

Still, she said, if Princeton does see its peers moving to a single deadline policy, it would be very comfortable making a similar change.

Both Cornell and Princeton university officials say their schools plan on making Harvard's decision a factor in their own discussions of their admissions processes.

As most of the other Ivies are standing by their current early admission policies, many private admissions counselors are hailing Harvard's decision.

Sally Rubenstone - a senior counselor for College Confidential, a popular college admissions advice Web site - said that there was "a lot of celebration in the admission world" yesterday.

Many counselors are pleased with Harvard's decision, she said, because it indicates that admissions officials are beginning to examine some of the financial- and stress-related issues facing students during the admissions process.

Nevertheless, she added, some students are so anxious to get into college by December that they will choose to apply to other schools rather than wait for Harvard.

This "could be good news for Penn," she said.

David Petersam, president of the Virginia-based group AdmissionsConsultants Inc., disagreed, however, saying that Harvard would most likely retain its choice-destination status.

Petersam said that Harvard was the only school that could make such a dramatic change in admissions policy, as it is unrivaled in its resources, political pull and prestige.

He added that because educational institutions tend to be slow in making changes, he expects early admission across the country to be safe for at least five years.

Even if other colleges don't follow suit, Petersam said Harvard's decision has wide support because it is thought that it will lead to a more diverse student body there.

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