With colleges and universities enrolling more and more early-decision applicants, a panel of experts at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s national conference last month convened to answer the question of who, exactly, is benefiting.
Panelists didn’t disagree -- the privileged are benefiting. That includes students privileged enough to be thinking about college early in their high school careers and privileged enough to able to pledge to accept admission to a college without seeing its financial aid offer first. It also includes colleges that are privileged enough to attract students willing to enroll under early-decision terms.
The panelists spent most of their time discussing related questions: what to do about early decision and whether an admissions mechanism catering to the interests of the best-off institutions and students can be harnessed to serve a greater good.
“We think schools benefit,” said Kirk Brennan, director of admission at the University of Southern California, which does not offer an early-decision option to applicants. “The privileged also benefit. We hope to focus on learning, focus on education for its own sake. High school is not just a way to get into college. It’s a way to grow and become a strong, educated citizen.”
Early decision is a binding admissions option under which students commit to a college or university that they consider to be their first choice. Students agree to enroll in that college if admitted and withdraw applications to any other colleges. Application deadlines and deadlines by which students decide to enroll come earlier under early decision than they do under standard admission. At its national conference, NACAC relaxed rules for incentivizing early-admission applications under pressure from a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation.