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Admissions Dean Stetson said recent crimes were not the sole cause for the drop in early applications to Penn. Three of the University's main academic competitors have switched from early action plans to early decision in the past two years -- changes Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said may be partly responsible for Penn's decrease in early decision applications. Princeton, Stanford and Yale universities switched from the non-binding early action procedures to early decision plans that require applicants to enroll upon acceptance. While Stetson conceded that the recent rash of crimes near campus affected Penn's number of early decision applications, he stressed that the other schools' move to early decision might also have contributed to the decline. "The fact that there was significant publicity about [the new] early decision plans has moved students into their applicant pools," he noted. Penn's early decision applications fell 10.4 percent this year over last fall, from 2,046 to 1,832. That number, however, is still 200 higher than the 1,629 applications the University received two years ago, Stetson said. Although the competition for early decision applicants has increased, Stetson emphasized that Penn still received a very high number of applications. And Yale, using the early decision process for only the second year, has seen its early applications rise significantly over last year. Richard Shaw, Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions, said early decision applications are up 13.5 percent from the 420 received last year. Shaw said when schools switch to the early decision process, the number of applicants at peer institutions often declines. He noted that early decision processes increase the competition for prospective students. "Maybe the total number of institutions going from early action to early decision could affect other institutions," Shaw said. "It's a very plausible theory." Shaw explained that nearly 18 percent of Yale's Class of 2000 was accepted early decision and added that switching to the process has allowed the school to accept more students under the regular decision plan. "We had students applying early to four or five schools and then turning most of them down," Shaw said. "We had students holding slots until May." Officials at Princeton, which is also in its second year of early decision, said the process provides for more accuracy in determining class size. Princeton spokesperson Jacquelyn Savani noted that Princeton's Class of 1999 -- the last class to apply under early action -- is significantly larger than the admissions office had anticipated. Far more students accepted early decided to attend the school, leading to a housing shortage. The admissions officers felt it necessary to switch to early decision so as to better determine class size, Savani said. "Early decision gives you a sense of how many people are coming to Princeton," she added. "There's a core to the class." Savani -- who noted that some Princeton seniors have been forced to live in trailer homes due to the housing shortage -- added that more students than ever are applying to Princeton. While both Princeton and Yale switched from early action to early decision, Stanford established an early decision process two years ago without ever having used an early action program. Stanford received more than 3,000 applications in its first year of early decision. Stanford's admission officers explained their decision in a newsletter, which stated: "There is a growing fear among students and parents that the only way to be admitted to the most highly selective colleges and universities is to apply early."

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