UNC, Beloit schools eliminate early decision from application

Rani Gupta

Two colleges’ recent decisions to eliminate the early decision application process will leave Northwestern largely unaffected because of the relatively small number of students who apply early to NU, said Rebecca Dixon, associate provost for university enrollment.

Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Beloit College in Wisconsin announced last week they would eliminate early decision, adding to recent controversy about the policy.

In December, Yale University President Richard C. Levin said “it would be a good thing” if the Ivy League schools ended the early decision process, which he said pressures students and benefits only a small group of wealthy applicants.

Under the policy, high school seniors apply to their top-choice school in November. If accepted students must enroll at the college.

Dixon said NU sees no reason to change its policy because of the low number of students who apply early to NU. In contrast to some Ivy League schools such as Yale, which filled 42 percent of its freshman class through early decision last year, NU fills 20 to 25 percent during the first deadline.

“We think we have a pretty good situation here,” she said. “At other schools, I think there is justifiable concern. It means many, many, many other applicants have less of a chance.”

NU attracts fewer early decision applicants than Ivy League schools because NU applicants, about half of which come from the Midwest, are usually more laid back than students who apply to other schools, Dixon said.

“(Midwestern) students and families tend to be less obsessive about the college-going process,” she said. “They are somewhat less competitive than students in the East.”

Early decision also can harm a university’s economic diversity.

Though early decision applicants receive financial aid, they are ineligible for merit scholarships at most schools. In addition, they must withdraw their applications from other schools and cannot compare financial packages, Dixon said.

She said NU’s diversity remains unharmed because it fills only a small proportion of its class during early decision.

“If it got to be higher than (30 percent), it possibly would be a concern,” Dixon said. “I think that’s what’s worrying a lot of our Eastern counterparts.”

Mason Williams, a senior from Clarksburg, W. Va., who accepted early decision to Princeton University, said the first deadline’s higher acceptance rates influenced his decision to apply early.

“The numbers work out so well, so even if you’re thinking it’s your first choice, it makes sense to apply early,” he said.

John Lacombe called his decision to apply early to NU “a great idea,” and said the peace of mind that came along with his acceptance allowed him to relax and enjoy his senior year of high school.

“This was the only school I wanted to go to,” said Lacombe, a Medill senior. “In a way, I put all of my eggs in one basket, but it took the pressure off after I did get in.”