Early decision peaks again

Elaine Helm

Early decision applications to Northwestern increased once again this year by 8.3 percent to 1,044, an administrator said Monday.

Last year, 964 students met the Nov. 1 early decision deadline, a 22 percent increase over the previous year’s total of 791. This year’s total marks a 32 percent increase from 2000.

Rebecca Dixon, associate provost for undergraduate admission, said she expected a 5 to 10 percent jump in early decision applications this year because more prospective students were attending information sessions.

“We get a sense of how recruiting is going in the fall by the crowds that show up at the hotel information sessions and the on-campus sessions,” she said.

Applications could trickle in during the next few weeks if people were misdirected or confused with regular decision applications, Dixon added. Applicants also might switch to regular decision if their applications are incomplete or if they do not want to be bound by the decision.

Early decision applicants must attend NU if they are accepted and withdraw applications to other universities, unless they cannot attend for financial reasons.

NU accepted about 50 percent of last year’s early decision applicants and only 37 percent of the regular decision applicants.

University Provost Lawrence Dumas said in an October interview he does not believe students feel pressure to apply early because of higher acceptance rates for early decision applicants.

“Every year we ask ourselves how high we want to go in early decision admissions,” he said. “It’s in a range now that we think is good.”

Schools provide a service to students by accepting early decision applications, he said, and schools benefit from knowing students who are accepted are guaranteed to attend.

“It’s for students with a special kind of commitment to the institutions to which they’re going to apply,” he said.

Despite recent decisions by other universities, such as Yale University, to eliminate early decision programs, NU is not considering moving from early decision to a non-binding early action program, both Dumas and Dixon said.

“We feel like, with under 25 percent of our incoming class coming from early decision, we’re not at the point where we need to tamp that down,” Dixon said.

Amanda Ashbaugh, a high school junior from Elk Grove, Ill., said she is considering applying early decision to NU next year because of the higher acceptance rate for these applicants and she was told it was a good idea for students who have a clear first choice.

Although she is also considering Lawrence University and University of Notre Dame, she said she would like to stay close to home.

Her mother, Connie, said she is encouraging her daughter to apply early decision to her first-choice school, whatever it turns out to be.

“Then she can maybe relax and enjoy her senior year,” she said.

Another prospective student visiting NU for a fall overnight program, Lauren Smith, a high school senior from Wheaton, Ill., said she is applying early action to Butler University and regular decision to NU.

In one of her English classes, the teacher told her schools use early decision programs to boost their application numbers, not to benefit students, Smith said.

Plus, she has not yet made up her mind about where she wants to attend.

“I didn’t know that I wanted to come here for sure,” she said.