Early decision will stay
The College's admissions office has no plans to scrap the
early decision process after the University of North Carolina gained nationwide
attention by doing so last week.
President Barry Mills said he backed the early decision
option because it attracted a diverse group of students who were eager
to come to Bowdoin. He also said that "for any single college to
move away from early admission would not be workable."
Early admissions programs offer colleges and universities
the opportunity to fine-tune an incoming class's makeup. Students who
apply for early decision, known also as early admission, are bound to
accept a college's offer of enrollment if one is made. In the early decision
process, the admissions office is guaranteed a 100 percent yield.
Bowdoin has had an early admissions process in place for
several decades. "In its purest form," said Dean of Admissions
Jim Miller, early admissions brings "students who have a very strong
interest in a particular institution to an institution which has a strong
interest in a student."
In recent months, some players in higher education have
raised concerns about early admissions programs. Richard Levin, Yale's
president, pushed for Ivy League schools to remove the early decision
option from admissions packets in an interview last fall. It is UNC, however,
that is the first American university to cut off an existing early admission
program, a decision it announced last Friday.
Evidence that the program was hindering UNC's efforts to
diversify and lowering its academic standards prompted the change. The
university said that the process was attracting students with relatively
low GPAs and SAT scores. UNC also found that early admission students
were rarely minorities, and often well off.
Bowdoin administrators said UNC's conclusions about the
effects of early decision programs did not seem to apply here. "I
think it works to everybody's advantage," Mills said. "We've
been able to use early decision to build on our goals of making Bowdoin
a more diverse place." Miller said that "we get a fair number
of students of color in early decision." He said that the socioeconomic
pictures of early and regular admissions pools "are not different."
High schools, meanwhile, have their own problems with early
admissions. Students who apply for early decision have slightly better
chances of being accepted than those who apply later. According to Eric
Monheim, college counselor at The Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland,
the temptation of any kind of statistical edge drives students to apply
for early decision as a way to beat the system. "We have kids come
in and say, 'I'm applying early. I just don't know where yet,'" he
"The message from colleges is pretty clear," Monheim
said. "You have to apply early." He estimated that 45 percent
of Bullis seniors applied early decision this year. At nearby private
schools, he said, up to three-fourths of graduating classes do.
Bowdoin administrators downplayed the stress and strain
that early admissions might place on high school students scrambling to
get fat envelopes from selective colleges. "I hope that students
who apply early here are doing so for the right reasons," Miller
said. "That's something we need to research." Miller said that
the "enormous pressure" on juniors and seniors to apply early
may be an "unintended consequence" of the early decision process.
Jaime Brewster, an admissions officer at Colby, said that
the Waterville school has not considered changing its early decision policy.
"We promote that students don't use early admission as a strategy
to get into college," Brewster said.
Officials here did open the door to a formal study of Bowdoin's
early decision process. "We're definitely looking at it," Miller
said. "It's a good idea for us to look at it from a Bowdoin perspective."
It was unclear, however, how Bowdoin's decision would be affected by the
decisions of schools with which it competes. Mills said that a unilateral
move by any college to drop early admissions would be "unworkable".
Miller suggested, though, that "there may be an antitrust issue... as to whether schools can move in concert to eliminate early decision." Miller said that he hasn't discussed the process with admissions officers at Bates, Colby, or other schools. "I think we need to do what's best for us," he said.