Editorial: NU should continue evaluating feasibility of early decision

The Daily Northwestern Editorial Board

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A recent Daily article about Northwestern’s early decision program discussed whether the University should switch to an early action program in order to benefit disadvantaged minority and low-income students.

Currently NU’s early admission program allows students to apply by November and receive a binding decision the next month through early decision. Early action, the preferred early admission program for several top institutions including Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Virginia, does not bind students to their chosen school. Instead, students have until May 1 to accept their offer of admission, allowing them to compare financial aid packages before making a final decision.

Institutions that have transitioned to early action admissions programs in recent years reported an increase in racial and socioeconomic diversity in their applicant pools. However, NU has no plans for making this change, as a review of the process showed that the early and regular applicant pools at NU do not vary significantly in income.

The Daily fully supports the University’s decision to stay with its early decision program. Without concrete evidence that NU’s early decision process disadvantages low-income applicants, the University should not change its existing program. Early decision is the only way to guarantee that students who apply early are genuinely interested in what the University has to offer.

The Daily agrees with University President Morton Schapiro, an expert on the economics of higher education, that seeking ways to strengthen financial aid is NU’s best course of action when it comes to meeting the financial needs of current and prospective students.

However, early action is not a potential change the University should entirely disregard. NU should always be seeking to improve the quality and diversity of its student body. The University should revisit this question after evaluating whether early action truly benefits the disadvantaged based on admissions data from similar peer institutions.

The Daily believes the University should keep its early decision process for now while seeking to constantly reevaluate the early admission procedure to ensure that NU is bringing in the most qualified students possible year after year.