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Dept. of Justice investigates Bowdoin’s early admission practices

April 13, 2018

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating Bowdoin and at least eight other colleges and universities regarding potential violations of antitrust law in their early admissions processes.

The investigation concerns the behind-the-scenes exchange of information between colleges about their admitted early decision (ED) applicants, a practice intended to ensure prospective students have not submitted binding applications to multiple schools.

The College received a letter from the DOJ last Friday, Director of Communications Scott Hood confirmed in an email to the Orient.

“We are cooperating fully, but I cannot comment further,” wrote Hood.

Students who apply and are accepted to any college through ED are typically required to withdraw their applications from all other schools. Sharing ED acceptance lists is one way colleges enforce this behavior. If students are found to have violated this expectation, their acceptances are typically revoked.

Whether Bowdoin shares ED information with other schools, receives it from other schools or acts on such information is unknown. Whitney Soule, director of admissions and financial aid, said she was unable to discuss the investigation.

The total number of institutions that have been contacted by the DOJ remains unknown, as does the criteria by which the DOJ picked schools to investigate. Among NESCAC schools, Amherst, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Williams and Tufts have all confirmed that they received the letter. Yesterday, Dartmouth’s student newspaper reported that the school had not been contacted.

The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the letter sent to schools under investigation, reported that the DOJ requested that the schools preserve all communications with admissions officials at other schools regarding the exchange of admissions records of accepted students.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the government is seeking “records of actions taken or decisions made based in whole or part on information received from another college or university about the identities of accepted students.”

This year, just under half of the students expected to matriculate in the Class of 2022 were admitted through early decision I and II.

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