All prospective freshmen will have to wait for spring
By Michele Besso
June 8, 2006 — The University of Delaware will drop its binding early decision program, starting with those who apply for admission in fall 2007.
Early decision allows students to apply to UD by Nov. 1 and get a decision by Dec. 15. In return, students agree that, if admitted, they will withdraw their other college applications and send in their enrollment deposits by Jan. 15.
Under the change, applicants to be freshmen would be notified by mid-March, said Louis Hirsh, UD admissions director. Students who are admitted would have until May 1 to accept the university’s offer.
While early decision allows students to know by Christmas whether they get into the university — while their peers wait to hear back from other schools — the program also has significant drawbacks, Hirsh said.
Families with financial need and students with solid academic records who apply for early decision are forced to choose without being able to compare other colleges’ financial aid and scholarship offers, he said.
“If the student has absolutely no interest in weighing other college options, and if financial aid and scholarships are of no concern to the student, then early decision can be attractive,” Hirsh said. “But that is not characteristic of the majority of students who apply to colleges nowadays. Most students are feeling pressured into committing themselves to a particular college before they are ready to make that commitment or before their families are comfortable with what that college choice will cost them.”
Some students think applying early gives them a better shot at getting into a school. While that’s true of some colleges, Hirsh said it is not the case at UD.
The university wants to consider all candidates, without the “pressure and haste” of early deadlines, Hirsh said.
Of the students who applied for early decision this past year, 465 were accepted, 92 were denied and 1,169 were deferred to be reviewed with the regular candidates, Hirsh said. Of those reviewed again, 306 were admitted. About 62 percent of applicants lived outside Delaware.
Annual full-time undergraduate tuition and fees in 2005-06 were $7,318 (in state) and $17,474 (out of state). Forty percent of the student body receive some form of financial aid.
Few early decision programs
The university’s elimination of early decision, announced this week, will be included in admission materials and sent to about 2,800 high schools. Hirsh also sent the information to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, from which he received positive feedback from guidance counselors, he said.
Only 7 percent of colleges nationwide have early decision or similar policies, said Judy Hingle, director of professional development for the association, a group of secondary counselors and college admission officers from around the world.
“Part of the context of early decision has been that it’s most prevalent in highly selective institutions,” Hingle said. “One of the concerns with our members is that the process tends to be used more often by more well-informed, wealthy students who don’t have to worry about financial aid packages.
“You want a balanced class,” she added. “That includes socioeconomic status. Students who don’t have as many resources have to compare offers from other schools. We’re concerned with the opportunity for all students. As prices rise, many colleges want to make sure they’re meeting the mission of serving all students.”
Pam Halfen, a Newark High School guidance counselor, said she’s disappointed UD is cutting the program. Many of her students choose to apply early because UD is their first choice.
“It’s an advantage so they can find out right away that they are accepted or wait-listed,” she said. “They can look ahead and find out what other schools they can consider. They can start working earlier and with their guidance counselor on scholarships and financial aid.”
This year, Halfen advised 125 seniors, 30 of whom applied to UD. Only a few of the UD applicants chose to use the early decision option, and Halfen wasn’t immediately able to say how many were accepted.
Some prefer faster answer.
Steven Roy Goodman, an educational consultant in Washington, said he is opposed to what UD is doing because he thinks students benefit from having more options.
“For the student who wants to finish the admission process earlier, and to focus on the rest of their academics and extracurriculars for the year, I think it’s terrific,” he said.
Amy Maguire, 18, of Newark, is one student who is thankful she applied this year for early decision to UD. She was accepted. “It was such a weight off of me, so much less to worry about towards the end of my senior year when I was worrying about research papers and final grades,” she said. “I was also able to start early with scholarship applications.”