January 16, 2003

Students Apply Early to C.U. in Record Numbers

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A record 1,110 high school seniors celebrated their acceptance last month as the first members of Cornell’s Class of 2007.

This year, the admissions office evaluated a record 2,729 early decision applications, which is approximately a 3 percent increase over last year. Cornell accepted 40.7 percent of these candidates to fill up approximately 37 percent of the class.

J.P. Ren ’07, a high school senior from Hillsborough, N.J., was recently admitted to the College of Engineering. “It’s great to be admitted early. I’m so relieved,” Ren said.

Preliminary data indicate an almost equal gender balance: 48.1 percent female, and 51.9 percent male.

Underrepresented minorities form 6.7 percent of the accepted early decision class. As for regional variation, 37.5 percent of accepted students are from New York State. Candidates from mid-Atlantic followed at a close second, forming 27.2 percent of the early decision class.

“Applications were slightly up from last year. They’re a strong pool just as they were last year, and most of the colleges had tough decisions to make,” said Angela Griffin Jones, dean of undergraduate admissions.

Scott Campbell, acting director of admissions for the College of Engineering, echoed Jones’ statements. “We enjoyed a very strong, high caliber pool of early decision applicants and took about 30 percent of our class,” he said. “We feel that this is a good, solid foundation to the regular decision class, and we let the caliber dictate how many students we admit in the early decision class.”

Daniel Evett, an admissions committee member and academic administrator of the Language House program, feels that the early decision class is strong overall, but that the regular decision class will be more competitive. “Those candidates that are very very good know that they have lots of choices, so many of them delay applying till the regular spring season so they can consider all their options. We also assume, but have never documented, that those people that applied early decision elsewhere and get deferred then apply to us,” Evett said.

Indeed, the acceptance rate drops significantly in the regular round. Last year, the regular decision admission rate was 24.35 percent and is expected to remain low this year.

Cornell’ notifies high school seniors of their acceptance status four months before the regular decisions are made. Students must pay a reward for this peace of mind: applicants accepted under early decision must withdraw all pending applications to other universities and enroll at Cornell. This is in contrast to non-binding early action programs, where an accepted candidate is allowed to apply and enroll elsewhere. Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and California Institute of Technology are among the few schools offering non-binding early action.

The early decision system has come under fire recently by some college administrators for placing undue stress on applicants. The system’s critics also argue that early decision discriminates against disadvantaged students (particularly minorities) who typically wait to compare financial aid packages. Yale and Stanford universities therefore announced in the fall that they will abandon early decision and adopt early action for the Class of 2008.

In contrast, Brown University last year switched from early action to early decision, a move which resulted in a sharp drop in application numbers.

“There are good and bad points,” Swati Mohan ’03 said. “I don’t think many kids really know that one school is right for them. I know many people who regret not knowing whether a different school was better suited for them; it [put a damper on] their college life.”

Other students are fully in favor of maintaining an early admissions program. “I’m glad I was admitted to Cornell early decision because it gave me a lot less to worry about during my senior year,” said Andrew Gossett ’05.

Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, is expected to release a statement this semester about the future of Cornell’s early decision system.


Archived article by Krishna Raghavan