NU Waits On Early Decision

By Jen WiecznerThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern administrators have held no meetings about the future status of the university’s early admissions policy, even though Harvard and Princeton universities recently eliminated their own and called for other institutions to follow suit.

“Just because some external situation occurs doesn’t mean we’ll make a decision based on that,” said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

Princeton announced Monday that it would no longer offer any early application option in the fall of 2008, saying that the early admissions process put low-income applicants at a disadvantage by requiring them to commit to an institution before they have the chance to compare financial aid offers from other schools.

Cubbage said that when he brought this news up at an administrative meeting on Monday morning, other administrators acknowledged hearing about it.

“That was the discussion,” Cubbage said, adding that nothing more was said on the subject later on in the meeting.

“It’s something the university is following with great interest,” Cubbage said. “It’s not something we’ve made any decisions on yet.

“In any institution it often takes days or weeks for a decision to be made,” he added.

Princeton announced its decision to discontinue its early application option a week after the announcement of a similar decision by Harvard.

Neither the office of the dean and director of admissions nor the provost’s office returned several messages left for them or granted interviews upon multiple visits.

“Right now we’re seeing how it plays out with other schools,” Cubbage said, though he could not say what the decisions by those schools would mean for NU.

Under NU’s early decision plan, high schoolers who apply by Nov. 1 receive their admissions decision by mid-December. If they have applied for financial aid, they will learn their aid decision around that time as well. Those students are then legally bound to attend NU, and must withdraw all applications elsewhere.In an editorial condemning early admissions programs, the New York Times called such binding agreements “draconian.”

Harvard’s early admissions program does not require such an agreement as NU’s, but allows students to compare other acceptances and aid offerings before answering Harvard’s offer in May. The institution, however, said it decided that its system was still unfair because affluent and privileged students were more likely to apply early than students from less advantaged backgrounds, and applying early could enhance chances of admission.

NU’s undergraduate admissions Web site describes its Early Decision plan saying, “Applicants who choose Early Decision send a strong, positive message to Northwestern. Given their high level of interest and overall academic and personal strength, the rate of admission for our Early Decision applicants is higher than our overall admit rate.” Of fall 2005’s entering class of 1,952 freshmen, more than 26 percent or 513 students were admitted under Northwestern’s early decision program.

Reach Jen Wieczner at [email protected]