UD to drop 'early decision' for 2007-08 applicants
4:26 p.m., June 6, 2006--The University of Delaware will drop its early decision program, beginning with applicants for the 2007-08 school year.
The program, at its peak, reserved 22 percent of spots in UD's freshman class for students who applied by Nov. 1 and who agreed they would enroll if accepted.
“We believe that early decision has outlived its usefulness and that it adds to the already considerable pressure and stress that families are experiencing nowadays when their students apply for college,” Louis L. Hirsh, UD director of admissions, said.
Delaware is among the first U.S. universities to drop its early decision program, a move started by University of North Carolina in 2002. Early decision programs, staples at campuses across the U.S., have been widely criticized as unfair to low- and middle-income students who cannot apply early because they must compare financial aid offers from several schools before they know where they can afford to enroll.
Here is how early decision worked: Students who applied by Nov. 1 and agreed to withdraw all other college applications and enroll at UD if admitted got an admission decision by Dec. 15. In some years, more than one-fifth of UD's freshman class was admitted by early decision.
Hirsh said the University was able to make the move away from early decision because it has a large pool of strong applicants. The number of applicants has jumped from 14,803 in 1996 to 21,865 in 2006, and average SAT scores rose nearly 70 points between 1996 and 2006.
“We accept fewer than half the kids who apply, and we have strong applicants, so I'm confident we can do this and still meet the goals for the size of the freshman class,” Hirsh said.
He said early decision caused problems for UD and for its applicants and their families.“Families with financial need and students with outstanding academic records are at a disadvantage,” Hirsh said, “since early decision programs force them to make a decision without being able to compare other colleges' financial aid and scholarship awards.”
He said admissions officials also believe some students felt pressured into applying for early decision because they believed it would enhance their chances of gaining admission.
Early decision also put pressure on UD admissions staff. “The problem in December, when you're making these choices, is you don't have the whole applicant pool in front of you,” Hirsh said. “Suppose you had a race with 10 people in it, but only six of them were going to race at any one time. You'd be a little reluctant to declare a winner until you saw the times on those other four racers.
“We want students to choose the University of Delaware, but we want this to be a considered and thoughtful choice, a choice that you make without pressure or undue haste,” Hirsh said. “We, in turn, want to be able to review all our candidates in light of the entire applicant pool, and, yes, we would like to do it without the pressure and haste that early decision deadlines impose. Eliminating early decision allows us to give every application the full attention and careful reading that it deserves.”
He said UD has been steadily moving away from accepting large numbers of early decision applicants since its peak year of 2003, when 811 of the 1523 early decision applicants were admitted. That year, 357 of the 506 Delaware applicants and 454 of the 1,017 out-of-state applicants were admitted early.
UD's early decision program, begun in 1994, earmarked fewer spots this year for early applicants in the incoming freshman class. Hirsh said the admissions committee deliberately accepted only 469 early decision candidates, about 14 percent of this fall's freshmen. They include 197 of the 476 Delawareans who applied early decision and 272 of the 785 out-of-state students.
“I have been doing college admissions since 1975, and what is different nowadays is there is far more tension and stress in the process than ever before,” Hirsh said. “Choosing a college ought to be a joyful experience, not an experience notable for nothing but stress and pressure and disappointment.
“Early decision used to be something very benign. You used to allow a relatively small number of students who knew where they wanted to go to apply early. Nowadays, however, it is something very different. It's students worrying that, unless they get in early, they're not going to get into the college of their choice, so they're depriving themselves of being able to explore other colleges and other colleges' scholarship and financial aid offers.”
Hirsh said he has received private e-mails from admissions officers at other colleges applauding UD's move, but they also predicted their campuses would not follow suit because of the pressures to admit early. Early decision programs guarantee colleges that a certain percentage of the students they admit will enroll.
Article by Kathy Canavan