This fall marked another exciting year for early admission. Whether you applied early decision or early action, there were some surprising trends among several highly sought-after schools. Each year, the early admissions landscape and university policies can change, and this year was no exception.

Overall Early Application Numbers

This fall, many colleges saw fairly steady numbers year over year for their early application process. Some schools experienced slight declines in early applicant numbers, while a few universities received record-breaking increases. Overall, the general trend seems to be that colleges accepted a slightly higher percentage of early applicants to the Class of 2019.

The following chart compares early admissions application numbers and acceptance rates for the class of 2019 versus the class of 2018. As a refresher, early decision (ED) is binding and mandates enrollment, single choice early action (SCEA) is restrictive but allows the student to wait until May 1 to decide, and early action (EA) is unrestrictive and non-binding. Early Decision applicants typically benefit from a higher admissions rate than Early Action or Regular Decision because the student has demonstrated strong interest though a binding commitment to attend. Accepting ED applicants also benefits the university, as these students will be very enthusiastic and spirited contributors to campus life, and strategically, the college will increase its yield rates.


Early Applications received for

Class of 2019

Early Applications received for

 Class of 2018

Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019

Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018

Brown University (ED) 3,043 3,088 20.3% 18.8%
Dartmouth College (ED) 1,859 1,678 26% 27.9%
Duke University (ED) 3,180 3,180 26% 25%
Georgetown University (EA) 6,840 6,749 13% 14%
Harvard University (SCEA) 5,919 4,692 16.5% 21.1%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 1,865 1,595 28.9% 33%
MIT (EA) 6,519 6,820 9.6% 9%
Northwestern University (ED) 2,793 2,863 36.2% 32.3%
Princeton University (SCEA) 3,850 3,854 19.9% 18.5%
Stanford University (SCEA) 7,297 6,948 10.2% 10.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 5,489 5,149 24% 25.2%
Williams College (ED) 593 554 41% 42.8%
Yale University (SCEA) 4,693 4,750 16% 15.5%

Notably, Brown University accepted 617 early decision applicants this year, representing the largest early decision cohort since Brown adopted its early decision program, 13 years ago.

Harvard saw a record-breaking 26% increase in early applications this year. According to The Harvard Crimson, this marked the lowest admissions rate in the last six early action cycles.

Johns Hopkins saw a 17% increase in early applications compared to last year. This caused their acceptance rate to fall by 4%, but overall more students were admitted (539 ED students this year versus 526 ED students last year).

Stanford University had 7,297 early applicants this year, the most in school history.

More Deferrals

This year, more students who applied early admissions received deferrals. At Harvard, 72.5% of early applicants were deferred (4,292 students). Princeton deferred 75.8% of early applicants (2,918 students), and MIT deferred 4,456 students, 68.3% of its early applicants.

In the case of the University of Michigan, this was part of a plan to avoid over-enrollment.

According to The Michigan Daily, “This fall, the University enrolled 6,532 freshmen — an increase of 307 over last year — and about 500 more than University officials had intended.” Provost, Martha Pollack, stated, “We have been over-enrolling every year for the past five years, and we have to stop this.”

Trends influencing Michigan’s admissions policies include record-breaking applications received for the fall of 2014 admission and a higher than expected yield (more students accepting admittance than anticipated). To avoid facing the same situation this year, Michigan was very conservative in early admissions acceptances and chose to defer many more students this year.

Higher Percentage of Freshman Class Filled

On the other end of the spectrum, some schools are admitting larger portions of their incoming freshman class from the early applicant pool. For example, the University of Pennsylvania welcomed 1,316 (24%) of its early decision applicants this year.  Early admission will comprise 54.4% of the Class of 2019, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the largest portion in UPenn’s history.

This is the second consecutive year that UPenn has admitted more than half of its incoming freshman class early decision. UPenn has also seen an increase in ED applications: 5,489 this year, a 6.6% growth from last year and all-time high.

As a result, regular decision admission becomes much more competitive. Last year, UPenn’s record low regular decision acceptance rate of 7.3% occurred after receiving a record high 35,788 regular decision applications.

Duke also admitted more early decision students, despite steady numbers of early applications. The Triangle Business Journal states that Duke’s early decision applications this year will represent 48% of the incoming freshman class. Northwestern’s early decision program this year will represent 49% of next fall’s class, which is expected to total 2,025 students. Williams College admitted 244 early applicants this year, with an acceptance rate of 41%, comprising 44% of Williams College’s class of 2019. At Dartmouth, the admissions office expects early decision students to comprise 41% of the incoming class of 2019.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are increasing their freshman class sizes as part of a strategic plan to increase the size of the school and accommodate more applicants.

Princeton enrolled 1,308 students for the Class of 2018; this class size was slightly larger than the previously reported estimate of 1,290 because the University determined it had more capacity for the next academic year.

Since 2005, Princeton has enacted a plan of continued gradual expansion to increase its total undergraduates from about 4,600 to about 5,100 students. This year, Princeton accepted 767 early action students out of 3,850 EA applications (19.9%).

Stanford University also has plans to increase its undergraduate enrollment slowly over the next few years. According to the Washington Post, “Stanford University, which turns down roughly 19 out of every 20 applicants, wants to grow its entering freshman class by an estimated 100 students in the fall of 2016. That would translate to a class of about 1,800.” Stanford’s President, John L. Hennessy, said they will gradually expand entering classes until they reach a comfort level with their overall student population.

This fall, Washington University in St. Louis’ administrators unveiled plans to admit freshman classes at the large freshman class size of 2018 (1,765 students) for the next several years until the undergraduate population reaches a total enrollment of 7,000.

Honors Program Inclusion

Some of the most talented early admits were invited to partake in honors programs. For example, UVA automatically reviews all applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences for inclusion in their Echols Scholars Program and typically notifies students of this honor around the time of their acceptance.

According to UVA, “Many Echols Scholars have told us that the privilege of being selected for the Program contributed substantially to their choice of the University of Virginia over other peer institutions and top-tier liberal arts colleges, because of its unique academic structure and flexibility.”

UMass Amherst (Commonwealth Honors College) and  UNC-Chapel Hill (Honors Carolina Program) follow similar policies in that they consider all incoming freshman for admission to their honors programs. There is no separate application process and students are notified of their selection shortly after receiving their letter of admission.

Merit Aid

Some talented applicants have received early admission, as well as merit scholarships to sweeten the deal.

Tulane University is well-known for its generosity in this regard. According to their website, “Tulane offers both merit- and need-based aid programs. All admitted students are considered for merit-based scholarships, and the review process is need-blind. All freshmen applicants are considered for partial merit scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $32,000 per year.”

Muhlenberg College is also very generous in their distribution of merit-based scholarships. In 2013-2014, 34% of Muhlenberg students were receiving merit scholarships. They consider all applicants for these awards which range in value from $1,000 to $18,000 and are renewable for all four years at Muhlenberg. The College states, “We want to encourage strong students to include Muhlenberg in that group of colleges that will receive their serious consideration.”

Oberlin College offers many merit scholarships, some require separate applications and some consider all accepted students. According to U.S. News and World Report, Oberlin awarded merit aid to 36% of their students for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Notable Moments from the Fall of 2014

294 students who were rejected or deferred from Johns Hopkins were mistakenly sent an email two days later entitled, “Embrace the YES!,” discussing their acceptance. As a result, those students were led to believe their admissions decisions had been reversed. Shortly after, however, they received a second email explaining the error.

Some early admission deadlines were extended. Due to technical difficulties, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and George Mason University extended their early decision deadlines to November 10. The University of Chicago extended their early action deadline to November 15 for students planning to apply for need-based financial aid as part of its new No Barriers program.

Finally, there was a large cheating scandal in Asia centered around the SAT test administered there on October 11. “Responding to cheating allegations, the company that administers the SAT tests around the world is withholding scores, at least temporarily, for thousands of Chinese and South Korean students just days before the early application deadlines for most American colleges and universities,” states the New York Times. Concerned students expressed fears that these delays could affect their early admission chances. Eventually, those students who were identified as likely cheaters had their scores canceled, and the majority of test takers received valid scores.

Navigating the decisions of where to apply early decision or early action can be daunting, but here at Collegiate Gateway we are happy to help you decipher your options and understand the changing landscape of early admissions. Please feel free to contact us – as always, we’re happy to help.