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Not to beat a dead horse, but a reader writes in regarding my most recent post:

Matt: Cornell may have more lower-income students than Dartmouth, but can you really say that's conclusively due to admissions policies? There are plenty of other factors, including location, size, tuition, financial aid, and of course Cornell's land-grant mission and practical focus. Cornell also doesn't have the elitist reputation that the D. does.
The reader touches on good points, and they are the reasons why my wording wasn't very strong in that paragraph.

However, that Dartmouth has less low-income students isn't the point; that Dartmouth claims its early admissions programs don't tilt the tables is. Maybe Dartmouth can overcome most of the problem with other policies as it mentions, but it still creates two distinct applicants pools at the end of the day: those that don't care about what college costs and those that do.

If most everybody agrees that early admissions puts less-well off students at a disadvantage (merely for the fact that they can't compare financial aid policies before deciding which college to attend), then itís just a little bit funny when a school that is more successful at getting low-income students (Cornell) says it is still a problem, when a school that is less successful (Dartmouth) says it is not a problem.

The reader further writes:

Also, are disadvantaged students really not as "savvy" because they don't have full-time paid college advisors? Honestly, it doesn't take that much to conclude that applying early might boost your chances of getting in, and someone applying to Harvard should probably have the smarts to figure that out in the first place.
Given that college admissions are still as confusing as all hell (or at least, I know it was when I applied), I still donít know how many students fully realize what a boost applying early gives them in admissions. However, thatís not the issue. What is the issue is the behavior of a student coming from a family that is making 50,000 dollars a year versus a family that is making 100,000 a year and a family that is making 150,000 dollars a year. The less your family makes, the less inclined you will be to apply early simply because of concerns over your financial situation, and that's how the tables are tilt in favor of the well-off.

Admittedly, non-binding early action programs arenít nearly as guilty as binding early decision practices because students are still given an opportunity to compare their college choices. But any step by Harvard that may prod other colleges in the right direction should be lauded.

And reader mail is always welcome!

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 13, 2006 (#)

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