Princeton, in a mode of shameless imitation, announced an end to its early-admissions program, following Harvard’s lead last week. As many speculated, Harvard seems to have set off an encouraging trend, which should lead to a generally fairer application process, in which all students compete at the same time. Additional cessations would not prove surprising–at the highest levels, that is.
Their good intentions are not under question but Harvard and Princeton essentially are the American colleges to whom early admissions matters least; those applicants that they admit attend in very considerable numbers. The real question for the future is how those institutions somewhat lower in the selectivity scale will act on Early Admissions. Binding early Admissions is a favored tool at colleges of somewhat lesser statute, with more concerns about whether admitted students will attend.
A bargain is struck: The students receive increased and earlier chances of admission, while the colleges can become certain about some portion of their student body early on, and ensure that those entering won’t up and leave for, oh, Princeton. Ending binding early admissions would provide benefit for less-affluent students, but the question remains whether most selective colleges are willing to sacrifice their pleasant deal and risk seeing their once-guaranteed student body portion melt away to other colleges.