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This fall, the reinstatement of Harvard and Princeton universities’ early action programs, which were eliminated in 2006, may have contributed to diminished applicant pools for many of their competitors, including Penn.

Harvard received 4,245 early applications and Princeton received 3,547.

Penn’s pool decreased from last year’s by 0.98 percent with 4,526 applications.

Although Penn’s decline is marginal, it shows that “Penn is tied to what goes on at Harvard and Princeton,” Top Colleges educational consultant Steven Goodman said.

Many of Penn’s peer institutions also saw a decrease in applications. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia, Stanford and Yale universities declined by 4.72 percent, 5.68 percent, 0.83 percent and 18.01 percent respectively.

In the Ivy League, Dartmouth, Cornell and Brown universities saw slight increases in early applications. However, the most dramatic increases were see at Duke University and the University of Chicago, where applications surged by 23 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

For schools that saw fewer early applications, Harvard and Princeton’s early programs played a part, said Goodman, who received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education in 1989.

Four years ago, Princeton and Harvard eliminated their early programs because they felt that they disadvantaged low-income students.

“Early programs help schools find students who are better prepared” to apply, and “wealthy students are better prepared,” Goodman said.

However, Goodman does not believe that the universities were fully committed to recruiting low-income students when they eliminated these programs.

It was a “politically popular thing to say,” Goodman said. But “if they really cared about that, they would just make sure they recruited those students. Instead, they still focus on wealthy [high] schools.”

While no loan policies are “a great step in the right direction,” they “unfortunately create pressure not to accept” low-income students, Goodman added.

Other experts, such as Principal of Lapovsky Consulting Lucie Lapovsky, disagree. Top universities are doing well in recruiting low-income students with their need-blind and no-loan policies, Lapovsky said.

For some high-school students with eyes set on Penn, Harvard and Princeton’s reinstatement of early programs was insignificant.

“I never really wanted to apply to Harvard” said early decision Penn applicant Anna Gaebler, who is a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois. She added that she would not apply to Princeton because she wanted an urban campus.

Ray Halloway, a senior at Millburn High School in New Jersey, said he was “never tempted” to apply early to another school because he identifies with Penn more than other universities.

However, other students, who were not set on applying to a binding early decision program like Penn’s, may have opted for an early action school.

Harvard and Princeton’s restrictive early action programs — which aren’t binding but don’t allow applicants to apply early to other schools — “allow more flexibility without the pressure of having to commit completely, but still being able to find out early,” said Kati Holland, a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois who applied early decision to Penn.

Some believe Harvard and Princeton’s decision to bring back their early programs may affect Penn’s regular decision yield.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said in a previous interview that he believes Penn will probably have a higher yield rate this year, since students accepted early to Harvard and Princeton will be unlikely to apply to Penn regular decision.

Those who are accepted into Penn early decision will be bound to attend the school.

The policy of having a greater acceptance rate during the early decision cycle benefits the students who apply and it benefits the planners of the university, Goodman said. “You have more students who want to be there.”


Interactive: 2012 early admissions at peer schools

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