1. Number of early admissions applicants rises significantly
  2. Early admissions rates increase slightly
  3. Colleges fill a sizeable portion of freshman class with ED
  4. Colleges vary in how they use deferrals and denials
  5. This is the best class ever! (really)


Early Decision Applicants Continue to Increase

For many colleges, the number of applications continues to increase, as a direct result of increases in the number of students graduating from high school, the number of students attending college, the ease of online applications, and the increased outreach of colleges to attract a larger and more diverse pool.

A few representative examples: Cornell University’s ED applicant pool increased 13.6% from last year, and each of Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges and schools showed increases. The number of Northwestern’s ED applications has steadily increased for nine consecutive years, with this year’s numbers peaking at 2,828 ED applicants. The provost for University enrollment credits this 14.73 percent increase to the University’s “excellent job of raising [their] visibility across the nation and the world.”


Early Admissions Rate Shows Nominal Rises

Although significantly more students are applying within the ED pool, this year has seen only a small increase in the admit rate across schools, since colleges are not increasing capacity to keep pace with student interest.

According to “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” University of Pennsylvania accepted 25.3% of ED applicants, an increase of only .4%. Harvard is another school that increased its admissions rates this season. Harvard accepted 21% of its pool, an increase from last year’s 18% admit rate. Princeton University accepted 18.5% of applicants this December, according to “The Daily Princetonian,” only minimally higher than their 18.3% rate last year. However, not all schools’ acceptance rates are on the rise. Brown University’s ED acceptance rate was the second lowest in University’s history, according to “The Brown Daily Herald.” Only 18.9% of applicants were accepted to the class of 2018, even though their pool was a record-high of 3,088 applicants.


If Not Admitted, Deferred or Denied?

Colleges have differing strategic policies regarding whether to defer or deny most students not accepted through early admissions.  Deferral provides students with the opportunity to strengthen their academic profile for Regular Decision through their first semester grades, additional testing, or additional recommendations. On the other hand, if a student is not likely to be accepted in the regular round, a denial may provide the student with the psychological freedom to form attachments to other colleges.

On one end of the spectrum, Princeton University rarely denies EA applicants, and the denial rate for the Class of 2018 is 1.2%, with 79% of total applicants deferred.  On the other end of the spectrum, Duke denied 53% of its ED applicants, and deferred 22%. Most colleges take an in-between stance.  Brown, after accepting 19% of ED applicants, deferred 71% and denied 10%.  MIT accepted 9% of its 6820 applicants, deferred 67% and denied 21%. Yale accepted 16% of its 4750 SCEA applicants, deferred 58% and denied 26%.

If you are deferred from a college, it would be helpful for you to research whether the college tends to favor deferrals or denials for those students not accepted.  If the college denies most of the non-accepted students, then your deferral is more meaningful and carries a greater chance of ultimate acceptance.


Colleges Fill A Significant Percentage of Freshman Class through Early Decision

ED applicants represent the strongest way for colleges to craft their incoming class, based on each school’s specific institutional priorities (e.g. under-represented minorities, first-generation students, athletic recruits, legacies, students with specific talent hooks such as music, arts, science).  Since ED is binding, colleges do not have to wonder about the “yield” on ED admits, since it will be nearly 100%*.

The University of Pennsylvania filled a whopping 54% of its expected freshman class through ED, accepting 25% of its record-high ED applicant pool of 5149. Typically, colleges fill less than (but often close to) 50% of their freshman class through ED. For example, Duke University filled nearly 47% of its Class of 2018 through ED, accepting 797 students out of 3180 applicants (25%) for an expected freshman class of 1705.  Northwestern’s Chris Watson, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Northwestern, said it’s likely that filling 45% of the freshman class through ED would continue to be the institution’s goal.

Colleges like to say that “most” of the class is filled through Regular Decision, possibly because students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not as familiar with early admissions options; this strategy appears to provide this demographic segment with more opportunity for admission. But when such a significant percentage of the incoming class is already filled through ED, the admit rate for the regular pool will be significantly lower. Last year, Duke’s acceptance rate for the Class of 2017 was only 10% for RD compared with 30% for ED.


The Role of Yield

Yield is the percent of students who choose to attend the institution out of the pool of accepted students. The higher the yield, the fewer the number of applicants a college needs to accept to “yield” the class size it seeks.  US colleges with the highest yield, based on data for the Class of 2017, include Harvard University, at 82%, Stanford at 77%, Cooper Union at 76%, Princeton at 67% and Penn at 64%. A high yield helps colleges forecast their housing needs and use of wait lists, and the measure itself plays a role in the US News & World Reports rankings.


Class of 2018 Rocks!

Although the numbers differ, all schools agree on one thing: the class of 2018 is certainly one of the strongest groups seen in past years! Penn Admissions calls it their “largest, strongest, and most diverse admitted ED class,” according to the “The Daily Pennsylvanian.”  Vanderbilt says, “This year’s pool of EDI applicants was the largest, most academically qualified, most diverse, and most superlative-heavy group in Vanderbilt history.” And Harvard’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said that “This year’s applicants are remarkable by any standard. Their academic and extracurricular strengths are impressive—as is their ethnic, economic, and geographic diversity.”

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* The reason that ED yield is not 100% is that some students withdraw due to changes in personal or financial circumstances. Additionally, some ED acceptances are rescinded due to academic or disciplinary issues after acceptance.