New report raises questions about AU’s early decision policy

The Center for American Progress says that ED hurts low-income students and people of color

New report raises questions about AU’s early decision policy

AU's Welcome Center, where prospective students begin their tour of campus. 

American University is ranked among the top ten colleges with the highest difference between regular decision and early decision admissions rates, which, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, can harm low-income students and students of color. 

U.S. News and World Report reported last month that AU’s early acceptance rate is 81 percent, while the regular decision acceptance rate is just 29 percent. This 52 percent gap puts the school at number seven for the largest difference between admission rates. 

Early decision, a common policy used in college admissions around the country, is a binding agreement, meaning that students who have been accepted early to that institution are required to attend regardless of their awarded financial aid packages. As with AU, early acceptance rates are often higher than regular acceptance rates, meaning that the policy can benefit students who apply early. 

“Wealth disparities, however, often prevent low-income students from taking advantage of early decision programs because they are more likely to have to consider competing financial aid packages when selecting a college,” said the CAP report. 

Additionally, since wealth in America is divided among racial lines, many of the students disadvantaged by these policies are people of color, said the report. 

Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions Andrea Felder said that AU meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need, so a student’s financial aid package would be the same whether they apply early decision or regular decision.

“There are fewer students applying for early decision,” said Felder, “but those students have done quite a bit of homework about American and know that it’s where they want to be. Often times, those students will also have strong academic records that support admission to the institution, which allows the admissions office more ability to admit students early decision.”

Some institutions with smaller gaps between early and regular decision admission rates admit substantial portions of their students early, leaving fewer spots open for traditional applicants. For example, the University of Pennsylvania admitted about half of its freshman class early this year. 

Some students say that applying early decision was a financial mistake. Ezra Brook, a freshman from Connecticut, applied early decision with hopes that it would help her get into AU. 

“I felt like if I didn’t apply early decision, there was a high chance I’d get rejected from a school like this because the target GPA was slightly out of my range,” she said. “But American was the school I wanted to go, so I applied early decision to get an advantage.”

Even though she was accepted through early decision, Brook had to defer her acceptance for a year in order to financially support her decision. “Applying early decision to this school was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” she said. 

Some students are dissuaded from applying early, fearing a situation like Brook’s. Kennedy Andara, a sophomore from Louisiana, decided not to apply early decision to Barnard College because, as a student paying for her own tuition alone, she needed to consider different financial packages from multiple institutions before coming to a decision. 

“It was weird that I got waitlisted because my scores were what they were looking for,” she said. “They paid a bunch of money to fly me to New York from Louisiana. They put in effort to bring me to their school. I credit me not getting into that school because I didn’t ED. They took it to mean that I didn’t like it enough to risk anything.”

Unlike many universities, AU does not offer early action admission, which is a non-binding admissions policy that operates the same as regular admissions does by having an earlier application deadline. Felder maintains that the University’s use of the early decision admissions policy does not impact racial or income diversity on campus. 

“Our early decision pool is so much smaller than our regular decision applicant pool,” she said. “We are still able to achieve levels of diversity, inclusive of economic diversity, because so many students apply regular decision.”

ssolano@theeagleonline.com

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