early action/decision

I had fun earlier this week making my public radio (okay, any radio) debut. Early action/decision is back in the news with Harvard/Princeton’s decision to bring back early action, so I did a segment on WBUR, Boston’s NPR affiliate, talking about it. The other guest was Chris Avery, who (literally) wrote the book on early decision/early action. The segment is archived here: http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/02/28/early-admissions

As Chris’ work shows, applying early has clear perks–when all quantifiable/measurable background characteristics are held constant, applying early is associated with about a 100 point boost on the SAT. Given that the early applicant pool tends to be disproportionately affluent, there are substantial equity concerns with these policies–especially early decision (which is binding). In the paper that Kevin Eagan and I did, we found that receiving private college counseling was the strongest predictor of enrolling via early decision or action, which helps clarify some of the processes/context behind the early applicant pool. I got to talk briefly about it in the interview, but Harvard and Princeton bringing back early action isn’t the end of the world–early action is certainly preferred to early decision, and these institutions have the $, huge applicant pools, and flexibility to ensure that lower-income students aren’t pushed out of the mix (well, no more than they already are, since low-income students are severely underrepresented in the most selective institutions). The equity concerns are probably more pronounced at institutions that only offer early decision, which includes a whole lotta mid-selectivity and higher selectivity institutions, private and public, including but not limited to the other Ivies (well except the ones that also offer EA like Yale).

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