Harvard College made a substantial policy shift this week when it announced that it will eliminate its early admissions program. In a statement, interim university President Derek Bok said Harvard's early action policy benefited some students over others. "Students from more sophisticated backgrounds and affluent high schools often apply early to increase their chances of admission, while minority students and students from rural areas, other countries, and high schools with fewer resources miss out," he said.
While Harvard's announcement was substantial, it was not necessarily bold. Since the vast majority of students who are accepted choose to enroll, Harvard can afford to shift its admissions policy with relatively little risk to its class size and selectivity rating. Were Bowdoin to eliminate its early decision program, that choice would truly be bold.
Bold because there would be less certainty when trying to make predictions about the numbers of students who would choose to enroll.
Bold because the program is popular among many prospective students and parents?Dean of Admissions Bill Shain called the program "almost a pathology in the Boston-Washington corridor" at Monday's faculty meeting. Bold because our peer schools haven't yet followed Harvard's lead.
Bold, yes. But not necessarily undoable. Since we are certainly not skilled in the intricacies of calculating admissions statistics, we don't really know. We do know that Bowdoin has done a tremendous job in recent years of seeking and supporting a diverse student body, and we are sure that this commitment has enhanced our community.
Eliminating early decision would only enhance this commitment. While Bowdoin already has an excellent reputation for providing financial aid to low-income students, such a move would add fairness for these applicants and for those students from middle-income families who are unsure if they'll receive any financial aid at all. Such a policy shift would also make the summer and fall seasons less stressful for high school seniors; no longer would they have to dwell over whether to apply to one college and only one college.
We are prepared to say that a policy change is an idea worthy of thoughtful consideration by the College's administration. Since going alone on this issue would put Bowdoin at a competitive disadvantage, we urge the College's leaders to explore this issue with leaders from other schools. We don't know that Harvard's choice would be the right choice for Bowdoin. But it might be, and that alone is reason enough for Bowdoin to consider being bold.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, and Steve Kolowich.