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At least four Ivy schools already took 40 percent or more of their classes. With early application numbers rising significantly for almost every Ivy League school this year, there will be fewer spots available for regular decision candidates to their classes of 2004 than ever before. Penn, Columbia and Yale universities and Dartmouth College all filled over 40 percent of next year's freshmen class with early decision candidates. Brown and Harvard universities have non-binding early action programs. Brown accepted 1,037 students for a class of about 1,400 while Harvard took 1,137 for a class of about 1,650 students. Princeton University's early decision statistics were unavailable. Of the schools with binding early decision programs, Penn led the pack with a record 2,570 early decision applications for the Class of 2004. Penn admitted 997 early decision applicants last month from a record-high applicant pool of 2,570, putting the acceptance rate at about 39 percent. "We've become a very popular institution over the last few years, [but] we've never moved at quite this rate," Penn Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said. Stetson attributed the rise to Penn's steadily improving reputation as a school with a wide variety of academic programs, new facilities and residential programs. Columbia boasted the second-highest increase in early decision applications, with its applicant pool growing by 15 percent. The institution admitted 590 students, or 39 percent, of its 1,524 applicants and about 45 percent of its likely eventual class size. Cornell received a record 2,259 early decision applications, 6 percent more than last year. The school admitted 1,041, or 46 percent, of the applicants, filling about 30 percent of its class -- the lowest of the Ivies. And Yale received a record 1,493 early decision applications, an increase of three percent. Yale admitted 547, or 37 percent, of those applicants, who will make up about 41 percent of its freshmen class. Dartmouth sent acceptance letters to 402, or 37 percent, of its 1,092 applicants. They will comprise about 40 percent of Dartmouth's class of 2004. Both Brown and Harvard amended their early action policies this year to allow students to apply early to multiple schools with early action programs. Previously, the schools only let students apply early to one school. The change left both institutions with significant increases in the number of early applications. Brown reported a 66 percent rise in early action applicants. The school accepted 1,037, or 21 percent, of its 4,922 applicants. And Harvard received 6,042 early action applications, a 32 percent increase from last year. The Cambridge, Mass., school accepted 1,137, or 19 percent, of the applicants. According to Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard, the change in the early action policy probably had some bearing on the increase in early action applications to the school. But she said, "It is always hard to determine the exact causes [of changes in the applicant pool]." Lewis added that there is a trend nationwide for students to apply early to colleges and universities. "I think [applying] is a difficult and stressful process, and students want to be done early," Lewis said. "They perceive correctly in some cases that there is at least a slight tip [to applying early]." But she claimed that Harvard does not offer any advantage to its early action applicants.

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