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Princeton University is following the leader.

Administrators there said yesterday that the school will eliminate early admission beginning in 2008. Harvard University made the same announcement last Tuesday, and Yale officials confirmed last week that the school is reconsidering its own policy in light of Harvard's decision.

Unlike Harvard, which offered a non-binding early action option to students who applied by Nov. 1, Princeton's early decision program required that students accepted early matriculate.

Both schools will replace their previous dual-deadline system with a single Jan. 1 application deadline.

The desire to level the playing field for poorer students and to make the college application process less stressful was a key factor in the schools' decisions, administrators said.

Princeton President Shirley Tilghman said in a statement yesterday that Princeton officials agreed with the rationale put forth by Harvard officials.

"We are making this change because it is the right thing to do," she said.

But although Harvard seems to have sparked a trend among the Ivies, Penn officials stand by the University's use of early admissions.

Penn spokeswoman Lori Doyle said that although Penn officials have held a series of meetings since Harvard's announcement, Penn has no plans at present to change its binding early decision practice.

Early admission "has been very successful for us and for our students," she said. "We like admitting students who select Penn as their first choice."

Since the school is often viewed as a higher education trendsetter, Harvard officials hope that their precedent is becoming a pattern among the Ivies.

"We certainly hope we will have company, although we have not discussed it with other institutions," Harvard spokesman John Longbrake said in an e-mail several hours before Princeton's announcement yesterday. "If [Harvard's announcement] starts a chain reaction . it will have good effects."

Such a chain reaction is very possible, experts say, since selective colleges like the Ivies tend to agree on important polices.

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said that it is quite likely that over time Harvard's peers will get rid of early admission.

Nassirian said that schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton don't really need early admission because they "reject a disproportionate number of qualified candidates every year."

They can let early admission go without any particularly adverse consequences, he added.

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