When Harvard and Princeton decided to eliminate their early admission programs starting this fall and accept all members of the Class of 2012 through a single process with a January 1, 2008 deadline, Bowdoin admissions wondered what kind of ripple effect the move would have in Brunswick.
Not much, administrators have since discovered. But they predict that Bowdoin will feel the repercussions of Princeton and Harvard's decision during the regular admissions process.
"[Harvard and Princeton's decision] wouldn't have any effect on early decision," said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Shain. "I think where that issue will be complicated is in the second round."
According to Shain, Bowdoin has not seen an influx of early decision applications this year from students who would normally have applied early decision to Harvard or Princeton since students with their hearts set on Harvard, for example, would not commit to Bowdoin before even getting the chance to apply to Harvard.
"These schools are powerful enough that the students who want to go there will either wait [to apply]... or go to Yale," Shain said.
However, the College predicts that it will feel the effects of Harvard and Princeton's decisions come January 1 when some 1,000 students?who in the past would have already been admitted early at Harvard or Princeton?will enter the regular decision applicant pool for elite colleges.
"We will have a group of top applications who will get into Harvard or Princeton who have no intention of coming here," Shain said, noting that such an occurrence could both lower Bowdoin's yield of accepted students and force a higher number of talented students onto Bowdoin's waiting list. For Shain, it is the latter that raises concerns.
"I don't care about the guidebooks. What I care about is getting a group of students who love to be here... who get in not through the waiting list," he said.
Harvard and Princeton's decisions to move away from an early admissions program came in September 2006, although this year's admissions cycle is the first with the change. Harvard and Princeton officials cited a push for a broader group of applicants and more time for recruitment and outreach in low-income areas as two driving forces behind the shift.
"Early admission programs tend to advantage the advantaged," said then-Interim President of Harvard University Derek Bok in a press release.
"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. Students needing financial aid are disadvantaged by binding early decision programs that prevent them from comparing aid packages," Bok said.
Shain agreed that "early decision serves some better than others."
"The argument people make against ED is that it's most useful to the affluent. There are a lot of kids who have been thinking about college since birth," he said.
However, Shain stressed that early decision also has its benefits, so long as an admissions office does not "excessively fill the class early."
According to Shain, Bowdoin does not intend to join Harvard and Princeton in eliminating early decision.
"I don't know why we would [eliminate our early decision program]," he said. There are a lot of reasons not to and I can't think of any why we would."
According to Shain, early decision is the primary stage for athletic recruitment, so removing that stage severely disadvantages sports teams. At Bowdoin, about 40 percent of the first-year class is admitted early decision, and half of those are student athletes.
Although Harvard and Princeton are not admitting student athletes early decision this year, Director of Athletics Jeff Ward said that Bowdoin has not seen an increase in applications from athletes who would normally have applied early to Harvard or Princeton.
"The decision by Harvard and Princeton to eliminate [early decision] has really had no impact on us," Ward wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "They continue to inform their athletic recruits of the likelihood of their admission separate from the regular process so our world hasn't changed much."
In addition to giving coaches the opportunity to fill their teams, the early decision stage also helps admissions manage its yield so that the incoming class can fit at the College.
"What I care about is that we don't overbook," Shain said.
According to Shain, Bowdoin saw a 2.5 percent increase in early decision applications this year, with the largest increases coming from students in Maine. The number of applicants from Maine jumped from 25 to 45 this year, and the number of applicants of color dropped from 51 to 38.
"Last year was a record [for students of color], so you can't always match that," Shain said, noting that trends in early decision are in no way indicative of what will happen in the regular decision phase.
"It's less than 10 percent of applications and anything can happen," he said.