Harvard plans to drop early admissions programs due to harmful effects

By Justin Pope The Associated Press

BOSTON – With a $26 billion endowment and 370 years of history, Harvard University says it can afford a gamble that could shake up the world of elite college admissions.

Harvard announced plans yesterday to drop its “early action” admissions round – and urged rivals to follow. Under early action, applicants get word by late fall if they’ve been accepted to a college, but can still apply elsewhere in the spring. Some other schools have “early decision,” meaning accepted applicants cannot apply elsewhere.

Harvard said such early admissions programs have two harmful effects: they may hurt schools’ diversity because poor and minority students are less likely to use them, and they create anxiety for the typically more affluent applicants who take advantage of them.

Nearly 23,000 people applied to Harvard last year – including about 4,000 in the early round – but the move’s broader significance is that it could persuade other elite universities to change their admissions policies. Many other prestigious colleges have acknowledged early admissions has become a strategy tool for the well-connected, and have tweaked their programs. But none have dropped them.