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Penn isn’t the only school that saw an increase in early decision applications this year.

Along with Penn, Brown University, Duke University and Dartmouth College reported increases in their early decision application numbers.

In contrast to the trend among Ivy League and peer institutions with early decision, Yale University, which uses an early action system, experienced a 5-percent decrease in applications.

While early decision binds accepted applicants to a school, early action allows students to make their matriculation decision with the regular decision applicants in the spring.

Like Yale, Stanford University uses early action admissions. But unlike Yale, Stanford saw a 4-percent increase in applications.

Duke had the greatest increase in early decision applications at 33 percent over last fall, marking the largest number of early decision applications received in the school’s history.

Brown followed Duke with a 21-percent increase. Penn’s 6-percent rise was comparable to Dartmouth’s statistic, which was up 3 percent.

Although so far, Duke has seen the greatest increase, Penn receives the most early applications of any school in the country, according to Admissions Office data.

Steven Goodman, an education consultant in Washington, D.C., attributed the upward trends to universities’ advertisement of early application options. He said that universities make it “very clear” that students benefit from applying early decision because “the percentage chance of being admitted can often be higher under early decision.”

“Of all schools,” he added, “Penn clearly communicates its support of early decision, especially as it relates to [children of] alums.”

Sally Rubenstone, a senior advisor at College Confidential, agreed with Goodman.

“Early decision typically provides a better admissions boost than early action does because colleges are more willing to accept applicants who will definitely enroll than those who may ultimately not,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Concerning Yale’s drop in applications, Goodman said Yale, unlike Penn and other institutions, “goes out of its way to emphasize that there isn’t a dramatic difference between early and regular.”

He also said that the decrease may also be a result of the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le in September.

“Yale has suffered from drops when there is violence around,” he said. “This has been a perpetual problem.”

Both analysts said that the economic downturn often benefits those who can afford the high cost of tuition.

Rubenstone noted that the economic anxiety that could discourage students from applying early decision is often trumped by fears of “losing out on the ED application advantage.”

“A lot of students are essentially using the early decision plan as a way of locking in spaces now rather than later,” Goodman said. “If certain people aren’t able to apply early, then those who are able to are benefiting from the early process.”

The rise in applications will likely affect the regular decision pool, Goodman said.

As a result of the increase, “there are fewer spaces for regular decision [applicants], and it is more competitive to get in regular decision, especially at a place like Penn,” he said.

Goodman added his view that the increase is the beginning of a new trend among Ivy League schools and peer institutions.

“We are going to see now and in the next couple of years more and more universities, especially the leading ones, taking a larger percentage of their classes early decision,” he said.

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