Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

Three Cheers for Derek Bok

Harvard has decided to end its early admissions program, the much decried program that offers students with an advantage by applying to a college early as part of the admissions process. This is huge news, and hopefully more colleges will follow Harvard's lead on this.

The practice has a strong reputation of favoring well-off and well-groomed applicants: those high-school students that have "college admissions consuelors" rather than "guidance consuelors" and parents who aren't nervous about the financial difficulties of attempting to foot the bill for college. While the early decision process is a win-win for colleges and some students (students enjoy slightly easier admissions requirements while colleges are able to lock away a third to a half of their entering class and manage their enrollment process a a lot better), everybody agrees that early admit programs put disadvantaged or ill-advised students on an uneven playing field when compared to their prep-school peers. The New York Times has more:

"We think this will produce a fairer process, because the existing process has been shown to advantage those who are already advantaged,'' Derek Bok, the interim president of Harvard, said yesterday in an interview.

Mr. Bok said students who were more affluent and sophisticated were the ones most likely to apply for early admission. More than a third of Harvard's students are accepted through early admission. In addition, he said many early admissions programs require students to lock in without being able to compare financial aid offerings from
various colleges.

Mr. Bok also spoke about reducing the frenzy surrounding admissions. "I think it will improve the climate in high schools," he said, "so that students don't start getting preoccupied in their junior year about which college to go to.''

Derek Bok, of course, is also the co-author of the The Shape of the River which wonderfully describes the issues surrounding higher education's affirmative action debate.

The Times has a handy chart that lists the regular and early decision acceptance rates at many colleges, but Cornell is not included.

Of course, Harvard can afford to make this move moreso than any other college. It doesn't really have to care about locking-up top students into attending when it is the most desired college in the country. As Caroline Hoxby's revealed preference study shows, common admits to all colleges end up enrolling at Harvard moreso than any other institution.

So how does all of this affect Cornell? Cornell, like most other colleges of its stature, uses a binding early decision program to help manage its admissions process and lock-in top students for each year's entering class.

Here are the stats. Last year, roughly one third of the class was admitted early decision (1100 out of an entering class of 3300), and those applying under early decision had a 39 percent acceptance rate. Meanwhile, for those applying regular decision, the acceptance rate was 23 percent.

What this really ends up affecting is the University's yield rate. The University's total yield rate was 47 percent, but had it not been for the early decision program, the yield rate would have been somewhere in the 30 to 40 percent range--the yield rate for regular decision candidates was only 37 percent.

Of course, this isn't to say that Cornell is more dependent on early decision programs than other peer institutions--others are far more guilty of "advantaging the advantaged" as Derk Bok puts it. In fact, Cornell is less dependent on ED programs than its peers (and yet another reason to applaud our beloved Cornell). Princeton enrolls more than half of its entering class through a binding early decision program, leaving just 600 spots for a regular applicant pool of over 15000 students. UPenn is in a similiar boat, typically accepting around 1200 out of its entering class of 2400 through the early decision process.

So if Cornell was to follow Harvard and adopt only a regular decision process--which it probably will not for comeptive reasons in the short term, even if it would be spiritually good for the University--this would mean that Cornell's admissions staff would probably have to work a lot harder to ensure that the students they accepted would choose to come to Cornell over all other offers of admissions that the student received. In the end, this would probably limit the quality of some aspects of Cornell's student body, especially when other schools are offering no-loan financial aid. A daunting task to be certain, but perhaps a noble one--especially if the university really had students' best interests at heart.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 12, 2006 (#)

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)